Parliament calls on Government to unlock £1bn investment in plastic recycling and ban plastic waste exports

Today, the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee published its findings on an enquiry into plastic wastes. “The price of plastic: ending the toll of plastic waste” is published just a year after Viridor called for a routine ban on plastic waste export.

The amount of plastic packaging collected for recycling is expected to increase by 45% by 2035, to 1.8-1.9Mt per year, driven by policy reforms designed to drive up stagnating recycling rates.

The UK’s current lack of sufficient plastic recycling and reprocessing infrastructure will grow to one million tonnes a year for sorting and over half a million tonnes for reprocessing by 2035. Current policy reforms to increase collection and recycling are critical to ensure that these materials are recycled and reprocessed in the UK and given new life. The EFRA report calls on Government to ‘work with industry to unlock up to £1 billion of private investment in domestic plastic reprocessing infrastructure’.

Independent research by Anthesis commissioned by Viridor found that recycling and reprocessing all the plastic waste arising in the UK represents a £1bn investment opportunity to build new plastics sorting and reprocessing facilities. This investment could deliver 46 new industrial facilities across the UK, creating 1,100 permanent skilled green jobs and a further 975 in the supply chain, delivering economic benefits of over £3 billion over 25 years.

Through interviews with the investor community, the research by Anthesis identified significant interest from investors to invest in the sector but highlighted a number of risks undermining the investment case for new recycling facilities, including price volatility in markets for recycled plastics and the current short-term contracts for recyclate.

Long-term contracts of at least 10 years are needed to create the stable revenues necessary to deliver multi-million pound investment. Currently, the sector has contracts length of only 3-5 years on average.

Dr. Tim Rotheray, Viridor’s ESG Director commented ‘Every week householders put out their recycling and rightly expect for it to be dealt with in the UK. Britain currently exports about half the plastic collected for recycling and investment and jobs go overseas. Investment in domestic recycling
infrastructure is essential to ensure a ban on exports delivers both jobs and environmental improvement.
Current policy reforms are key to unlocking this major jobs and growth opportunity. This report comes at a critical time, as concerns about environment, climate and the economy are
growing. We are delighted to have given evidence to the Committee and trust that their work will help generate the investment we so sorely need.”

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Bridging the Gap: Ending the UK’s Reliance on Plastic Waste Export including more details on research methodology can be viewed here.