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New research into recycling household plastics to be launched in Scotland

WRAP and Remade Scotland are hosting a joint discussion about new research into how common household plastics can be recycled.

The event, to be held on 19 Jun 08 at Jurys Inn, Jamaica Street, Glasgow, will bring together a host of specialists to discuss recycling objects such as yoghurt pots and salad bags.

18 Jun 08

New research from WRAP has found that recycling not just plastic bottles but other plastic packaging as well can be cost-effective and environmentally friendly. WRAP has just launched its first business plan for Scotland and, in this, proposes to review the outcomes of its mixed plastics research against Scotland’s circumstances. Delivery of the Scotland Business Plan will be led by WRAP’s new Director for Scotland, Iain Gulland, who will start work on 23 June.

Scotland produces around 250,000 tonnes of mixed plastic packaging waste every year.  The total for the UK is 1m and this figure is growing by 2-5% every year. It makes up around 7- 9% of household weight by waste and its volume means it stands out in the average person’s bin.

WRAP did the research to see if it made financial sense to recycle this waste and if recycling it would be better for the environment than other options – such as burning it or sending it to landfill. In particular, WRAP wanted to see if these ordinary household items could be recycled to make new ones, rather than having to use virgin plastics every time.

There is currently a ‘Catch 22’ situation, with few local authorities prepared to collect plastic waste other than bottles, as there is limited potential for them to be recycled. However, this means there is a lack of such plastics available for companies to attempt to do so.

WRAP’s research included trials of sorting different types of plastics, an analysis of the type of technology needed, an estimate of running costs, and modelling of the financial rate of return. It also compared the environmental impacts of different ways of dealing with this type of plastic waste, including burning it and sending it to landfill. The research showed that, in addition to the environmental benefits, recycling can be cheaper than both these options.

Overall, landfill is the least favourable option for disposing of plastics waste. However, in terms of global warming potential the research found that incineration of plastic packaging was the worst option. This is because more CO2 is emitted by burning plastics than by burning gas or coal to generate the same amount of electricity.

The research showed that, on balance, the best environmental option is to invest in technology to produce high quality recycled plastics, but there will still be a need for solid recovered fuel (SRF) in some cases. Consequently, it makes sense to build integrated plants capable of both options as this improves the economic benefit and maximises the environmental impact.

Liz Goodwin, CEO WRAP, said:

“We are delighted to have Iain Gulland on board as WRAP’s new Director for Scotland and believe his appointment will help drive some real environmental changes in this area and others.

“This is the first time that we have been able to prove that recycling mixed plastics is not only possible, but cost-effective and makes good environmental sense. WRAP’s research is a first step towards getting that plastic out of the household bin and back in use. This will reduce the need for us to use large amounts of energy producing new plastics and the oil required in their content.”

Professor Jim Baird from Remade Scotland, said:

“Remade Scotland and WRAP are working together to find solutions to the problems of recycling mixed plastics in Scotland.  This event is an opportunity for us to present the results of our research and to explore the practical options for stimulating more recycling with other industry professionals.”

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