Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th October 2006.

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Photo of Anne Milton Anne Milton Conservative, Guildford

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the amount of commercial plastic used in England which could be recycled but that is currently not; what plans his Department has for the recycling of plastic other than bottles in England; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare)

According to the British Plastics Federation, an estimated 19-21 per cent. of the total plastics consumed in the UK in 2005-06 were recycled. The Government are taking action to support the reduction of plastic packaging in the waste stream and the recycling of plastics more generally.

There are numerous different types of plastics in use, which would require separate collection (or separation after collection) and treatment facilities to recycle. It inevitably takes time for that capacity to develop. Local authorities have understandably tended to focus their attention on waste streams that make a greater contribution to their targets and for which recycling infrastructure and markets are more developed. However, with targets for household waste recycling and composting becoming ever more demanding, all local authorities will have to start tackling the more difficult waste streams like plastics.

The waste and resources action programme (WRAP) is working to further develop efficient markets for recycled materials. WRAP'S targets for 2004-06 are to work with the plastics industry to increase the acceptance of recycled plastic throughout the supply chain, to deliver an additional 20,000 tonnes of domestic plastic bottle recycling capacity, and to ensure that an additional 11,000 tonnes of non-bottle plastics are recycled.

The Packaging Regulations set targets for recovery and recycling of packaging waste to be met by obligated businesses each year so that the UK can meet the relevant EU directive targets by the specified deadline. The directive requires the UK to recycle 22.5 per cent. of the plastic packaging waste entering the UK waste stream by 2008. Currently around 20 per cent. of plastic packaging is recycled in the UK.

Defra is working closely with the devolved administrations, WRAP, SWAG (Scottish Waste Awareness Group) and businesses to promote reusable bags and reduce the number of plastic bags entering the waste stream. More information is available on the Defra website at:

As a consequence of the Agricultural Waste Regulations coming into force, which ban agricultural plastics from being burnt or buried on farms, the Government are developing producer responsibility regulations for the collection and recovery of non-packaging farm plastics. It is envisaged that any collection scheme developed will collect both packaging and non-packaging farm plastics. The Secretary of State has allocated £1 million of the business resource efficiency and waste (BREW) funding to research this and other issues; provide recommendations on the most economical way to collect plastic waste from farms; and how best to implement producer responsibility for non-packaging farm plastics.

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