A presentation was given to the Joint Executive Committee on National and Local Authority waste related stories that have been in the media.
International Waste News
The Joint Executive were advised that a new United Nations Environment Programme assessment of plastic waste polices has found limited packaging related policies and ‘weak enforcement’ are aggravating the problem of plastic pollution in South-East Asia. Over half of the land-based plastic pollution in our oceans originates from just five countries, four of which are in South-East Asia, and this pollution has more than just an environmental impact – plastic litter in Asia Pacific region alone costs its tourism, fishing and shipping industries $1.3 billion per year.
The assessment report is the first comprehensive look at policies on packaging waste and standards in the countries in South-East Asia.
The Malaysian government has announced that it is set to publish a circular economy roadmap for plastics, which aims to provide a direction for policy and stakeholders, including state governments, and enable Malaysia to prepare for the ‘next step towards sustainability’ The plastic sector in Malaysia generated nearly MYR 31 billion in revenue last year, which is over £5.7 billion. In May 2019, Malaysia announced that it was sending back 3,000 tonnes of contaminated waste to countries including the UK, America, Australia and Canada after 60 shipping containers had been allegedly smuggled into illegal processing facilities.
The Joint Executive Committee were advised that UK Waste Management firm Biffa has announced that there should be a ban on the export of waste plastics as part of a drive for all plastics to be recycled in the UK, which they say, would retain the material as a resource, generate UK investment and jobs, and avoid unintended environmental problems in other countries.
A report commissioned by Biffa, says that the demonisation of plastics is also resulting in unintended consequences for UK recycling, which have the potential to make the UK’s plastic problem worse. Biffa is calling for simplification in plastic packaging materials with a focus on closed-loop recycling investment to ensure that where plastic packaging is necessary, it is developed to be recyclable as possible, whether in its original form for other materials.
However, according to a new report published by the Waste and Resources Action Programme, the UK faces a plastics capacity challenge as demand for recycled content increases. The report concludes that global plastic consumption is likely to continue to grow as emerging economies continue to develop.
The Joint Executive Committee were advised that Coca-Cola has unveiled its first ever sample bottle which has been made using recovered and recycled marine plastics. About 300 sample bottles were made using 25% recycled marine plastic retrieved from the Mediterranean Sea and beaches, through a partnership between Ioniqa Technologies; Indorama Ventures; Circular Seas; and the Coca-Cola Company. The bottles were designed and developed to show the ‘transformational potential’ of enhanced recycling technologies.
These are the first ever plastic bottles that have been successfully manufactured using marine plastic which can also be used for food and drink packaging. In the immediate term, Coca-Cola plans to roll out an enhanced recycling content within its products this year, which will use waste streams from existing recyclers and include previously unrecyclable plastics and lower-quality recyclables. In 2017, as part of their Sustainability Action Plan, Coca-Cole pledged that by 2025, they will collect one can or bottle for every one that is sells; ensure that all of its packaging is 100% recyclable; and ensure that at least 50% of the content of its plastic bottles will come from recycled content.
The aluminium can industry has refuted recent claims made by Coca-Cola that recycled P-E-T plastic bottles have a ‘much lower’ carbon footprint than the aluminium can. The Can Manufacturers Institute says that the carbon footprint of both containers is comparable, but that the aluminium can performs ‘significantly better’ than the P-E-T bottles on critical sustainability measures, including recycling rate, recycled content, and economic value, because aluminium beverage cans are the ‘most recycled drinks package in the world’.
CMI said that the average aluminium can in the USA has a recycled content of 73%, which is significantly higher than plastic P-E-T bottles in the States, which have a recycled content of less than 10%, and that recycled cans have a positive environmental impact, because when a can is produced from recyclable materials, this saves more than 90% of the energy used and greenhouse gas emissions, when comparted to making the same can from virgin material. The high economic value of aluminium was also highlighted, noting that the recent two-year average shows that the scrap aluminium can market has been worth four times that of P-E-T bottles, so all of these metrics together mean that the aluminium can is the only container that consumers can recycle with confidence and that their actions will have a significant environmental impact.
National Waste News
The Joint Executive Committee were advised that research undertaken by Alupro, the aluminium packaging recycling organisation – has suggested that the introduction of an ‘all-in’ deposit return scheme model could result in an extra 823 million plastic bottles being produced, which will inadvertently add to plastic pollution. The research asked 2,000 UK adults to imagine that the English scheme introduced a 20 pence deposit on every can or bottle – as proposed in Scotland’s DRS, which would mean that consumers would pay an up-front deposit of £4.80 on top of the purchase price for a 24-can multipack, as compared to an 80 pence for four large plastic bottles containing the same amount of liquid.
When faced with this choice, two thirds of those currently buying cans in multipacks say they would likely switch to plastic bottles. Alupro is therefore warning that attaching the same deposit fee to all sizes of containers will lead consumers to opt for the larger plastic bottles, which will also have consequences for the environment and impact on portion control because of the size of the bottles. Consumers will, of course, be able to recoup any deposit they pay by returning the empty container to a designated collection point.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England also issued a warning that one in four bottles that litter the countryside may not be included in a DRS, and in order for a DRS to be an effective deterrent to the high volume of waste polluting our natural environment, it must cover all materials of all sizes. The CPRE say the evidence for an ‘all in’ model was clear within its 2109 Green Clean nationwide litter pick, which suggested that millions of drinks containers would still end up littering the countryside. The CPRE said that to boost recycling rates the only option is to include all drinks containers – which should include cartons and pouches too.
The Joint Executive Committee were advised that the environmental organisation Zero Waste Scotland is now warning that the current focus on plastics is actually a distraction from the real issue of ending the disposable throwaway culture. Four-fifth’s of Scotland’s carbon footprint is generated through the heat and energy that is required to grow, make, process, transport, and provide materials that are often disposed at their end-of-life. The organisation says that although well-intentioned, much of the current focus on simply eradicating plastic can replace one environmental problem with another.
Chief Executive Iain Gulland said that the power lies with people to both make changes and ask business to do more, however, it was stressed that businesses must also play their part in reducing waste. In launching the recent BBC One wildlife series ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet, environmental Sir David Attenborough essentially highlighted the same message.
Local Authority News
The Joint Executive Committee were advised that the Local Government Association says that the Government must ‘commit’ to EPR reforms and take forward proposals that ensure that producers pay for the full cost of recycling packaging if it is serious about improving recycling rates.
The LGA said that local authorities have used successful initiatives to try and increase recycling rates in their local areas. The LGA is also calling for the Government to commit to measures to charge manufacturers more to cover the end-of-life costs to councils of non-recycled packaging.
Hertfordshire County Council is considering a request from waste management company Amey to end its household waste and recycling centre contract early. Amey runs 17 HWRCs for the council, with the current eight-and-a-half year contract due to run to March 2023. The Council said that Amey have done a good job managing their HWRCs, but that they’ve known for some time that whilst the contract is working well, they have, in fact been losing substantial amounts of money - so have asked the Council if they can end the contract early, which has been agreed by the Council, on the condition that suitable exit terms can be negotiated.
The Council says that it is planning ‘significant investments’ in the network of HWRCs, and a report on the results of the management options work is expected to be presented to the council’s Cabinet in February.
The Joint Executive Committee were also advised that Northern Ireland has reached the European 50% recycling target. It was announced at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management’s Northern Ireland conference last year that the country has reached a recycling rate of 50.6% and the new improved performance has been attributed to the introduction of mandatory food waste collections.
RESOLVED - That the Joint Executive Committee noted the contents of the report.