Manufacturers must scrap the “smorgasbord” of plastics which are used in packaging for key foods so that councils can reduce waste sent to landfill and increase recycling, local Lib Dems are warning.
Analysis from the Local Government Association suggests that only a third of plastic used by households is able to be recycled. It found 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are used by households a year but only 169,145 tonnes of this waste is able to be recycled.
Lib Dem campaigner James Moore is calling for manufacturers to work with councils and develop a plan to stop unrecyclable packaging from entering the environment in the first place.
Fruit and vegetable punnets are usually made from three different types of polymers including polystyrene. Some plastic packaging is made from a combination of polymers, as different plastics are used in the body and lid of a yoghurt pot.
In one example of particularly inefficient packaging, microwave meals are often encased in predominately black plastic material for aesthetic reasons.
However, black is the only colour that cannot be easily scanned by recycling machines and sorted, meaning this hinders the recycling process.
To increase recycling rates, it’s essential that manufacturers prevent materials entering the environment which hamper recycling efforts. Alternatives to the packaging saturated in polymers which are challenging to recycle could include cardboard, paper or a recyclable version of pots. For instance, if margarine tubs were made out of the same material as plastic water bottles, they would be recyclable.
“It’s time for manufacturers to stop letting a smorgasboard of unrecyclable and damaging plastic flow into our environment. Some of the measures that could help us reduce landfill and increase recycling are no- brainers; for instance, microwave meals should be stored in a container that is any other colour than black, to enable quicker recycling.
“The Lib Dems have been calling for producers of unrecyclable material to develop a plan to stop this from entering the environment for years. That needs to happen urgently, but the Government should now consider banning low-grade plastics, particularly those for single use, to increase recycling."