Three facts about plastic
We interact with plastic every day – in our workplace, in our homes, and every city we commute to or visit. But there’s still a significant knowledge gap when it comes to plastic. Our experts have come together with the three fundamental things you need to know about recycling in the UK.
1. Not all plastics are a problem
There are some problems with plastic. We are producing more virgin plastic than ever, demand has never been higher, not everything can be recycled, and the UK can't process the volumes of recyclable plastics being generated. But not all plastics are a problem.
Plastic is complicated, plastic can be controversial, but plastics perform essential functions in our society. From preserving our food to keeping our medical equipment sterile. When plastic is done properly, it can be a sustainable solution and forms a valuable part of the circular economy. But everyone needs to come together for plastic to work.
We know this because we have spent years developing a solution for milk bottles, allowing materials to be recycled and transformed into new products. Through working with dairies, retailers, government departments, and regulatory bodies, we have worked together to create a closed-loop system where 80% of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) milk bottles in the UK contain Biffa recycled plastic. Our case study shows that when partners at every stage of the product lifecycle work together with regulatory bodies, a solution can be found which results in higher levels of recycling more sustainable waste management.
We don’t yet have a recycling solution for all types of plastic. Flexible clear plastic, or plastic film, is one of the major sustainability challenges facing us as a society. It cannot currently be recycled at scale, it contaminates easily, and is a source of pollution.
There is no short-term solution for using plastic wraps and film. Change needs to happen across the entire supply chain, every household, and every business in the UK. Our current advice is to avoid contamination of recyclable plastics with film and ensure film and other types of non-recyclable material are disposed of in general waste. Wherever possible, we process these types of plastics to extract low-carbon energy.