Waste Management

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 6th March 2017.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps she is taking to (a) improve the recyclability of black plastic and (b) reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps she is taking to reduce companies' use of non-recyclable black plastic packaging.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Packaging (Essential Requirements) Regulations require businesses to ensure that all packaging does not exceed what is needed to make sure that the products are safe, hygienic and acceptable for both the packed product and for the consumer. They are also required to ensure that it is recyclable or recoverable at end of life.

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has been working in partnership with industry to overcome technical barriers to the recycling of black plastics from using particular pigments in the manufacturing process. It is now possible to create a material that is almost identical in colour, but can be identified by the optical sorting equipment used by many materials recovery facilities. This could lead to increased recycling of the most common black plastic used in packaging. We therefore recommend that where plastic packaging is required to be black, retailers, brand owners and packaging manufacturers use detectable black colourants to enable the environmental benefits of recycling black plastics to be fully realised.

We recognise that there are still challenges. As part of the work on greater consistency in household recycling which industry and WRAP are taking forward, an advisory group supporting the consistency framework has recognised the recyclability of plastic packaging as an issue preventing comprehensive collection of dry recycling and has included an action to improve this, with black plastic as one of the key focus areas.

The Landfill Tax is the main driver in diverting residual waste from landfill. The standard rate is currently £84.40 per tonne. Defra is also investing £3 billion in a number of local authority projects through waste infrastructure grants. This is contributing towards the reduction of waste sent to landfill, promoting renewable energy, recycling and stimulating growth.

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