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Producer responsibility

The UK has a statutory producer responsibility regime for packaging, which places a legal obligation on businesses over a certain size which make or use packaging to ensure that a proportion of the packaging they place on the market is recovered and recycled.

Under this regime in 2014, Government statistics reported the UK disposed of an estimated 11.4 million tonnes of packaging waste, of which around 64% was recovered/recycled. Out of the total packaging waste disposed, 2,220,000 tonnes was plastic packaging, 842,000 tonnes of which was recycled. This is equivalent to 37.9%.

Householder recycling

Government statistics reported that in 2015, the amount of dry recycling from households in England stood at 5.7 million tonnes (nearly 27% of total waste from households). Of this, plastics made up 8%. There is no breakdown available for plastic packaging waste.

Recyclable packaging

Nearly all packaging is capable of being recycled, but that does not necessarily mean that it is recycled.

There are many different types of plastic in the waste stream. It is technically possible to recycle most types of plastic but the complexity and cost of doing so impacts on whether or not it happens.

At a local level, the services provided by the authority will depend on many factors, including the associated costs, available infrastructure and recycling facilities and relative participation rates (i.e. the role of the consumer and how they dispose of their recyclable waste).

Compostable packaging

Biodegradable plastics (or biopolymers) have been used for some time. Biopolymers are generally designed to be composted rather than recycled, and as such require a different collection / disposal route to conventional plastics. Some, but not all, biopolymers may be suitable for home composting.

Voluntary initiatives

The Debate pack provides a number of examples of voluntary initiatives and campaigns aimed at addressing this issue, including:

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