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Recycling begins at home

The head of an Essex-based recycling firm is lobbying the government to prevent valuable plastic waste being shipped overseas.

Shipping plastic bottles overseas for recycling is a threat to the UK's recycling industry and Britain's wider green economy, says Chris Dow, managing director of Closed Loop Recycling which produces food-grade rPET and rHDPE packing.

Dow has issued a call to the new coalition ministers responsible for carbon reduction, waste and recycling, urging them to speed up a long-overdue overhaul the packaging recovery note (PRN) scheme, which he says encourages local authorities and waste companies to ship overseas plastic containers his firm could recycle in the UK.

PRNs provide the evidence that businesses need to prove they have met the producer responsibility requirements of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulations (2007). They were set up before the UK had established an infrastructure for recycling plastic waste and provided for waste companies to ship recyclable materials to low-cost labour countries, such as China.

But now the recycling infrastructure exists locally, the PRN system is outdated and is "the equivalent of shipping 2000 skilled and unskilled green jobs abroad," a CLR spokesperson told Some 40 per cent of recyclable plastic packaging is shipped overseas, estimates CLR, all of which could be recycled in the UK.

The PRN scheme is up for review by Defra, and the consultation period ends in early June. But a report on how the scheme should be changed is months away and action further still, complains Dow. He is calling for urgent hands-on management of the scheme at ministerial level.

"Shipping what is a valuable resource for our industry to other completely non-sensical in economic terms as it means that a growing UK industry is not being supported and instead green - or not so green - jobs are being created overseas instead of here in the UK," says Dow.

"Consumers are recycling more, and increasing numbers of packaging companies, retailers and big name brands are choosing to use UK-sourced recyclate in their packaging. What we need now is a review of schemes such as the PRN system, to allow the industry to develop further to the benefit of the whole economy," he added.

Closed Loop Recycling's recycling facility in Dagenham processes 35,000 tonnes of waste plastic bottles a year. The company has plans for further plants, including one on Deeside, North Wales which will open in 2011.

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