Plastic bottle recycling increases

The amount of plastic bottles collected for recycling from the household waste stream jumped 50% in 2004, according to a survey by plastics recycling organisation Recoup.1 However, the quantity collected, some 36,350 tonnes, is just 8% of the total amount of plastic bottles in the household waste stream.

Of the UK's 477 local authorities, 73% now offer recycling collection facilities for plastic bottles, up from two-thirds in 2003. One third of UK homes now have the opportunity to participate in kerbside recycling collections that include plastic bottles.

Despite the increasing coverage, schemes are expected to capture only around 48,000 tonnes, or 10.5% of arisings, in 2005. Therefore, says Recoup, "there is a real need to focus on good practice and the removal of scheme inefficiencies to optimise current systems."

Only 29% of authorities responding to questions on costs said that it costs them little extra to collect plastic bottles for recycling compared to collecting them for disposal. But, says Recoup, many authorities "fail to realise they are already paying to transport and dispose of plastic bottles as residual refuse and by doing so realise no material value whatsoever from them."

By its own admission, Recoup's forecast that the recycling rate for 2005 could be 10.5% could be overly optimistic. Although it assumes that total arisings are 460,000 tonnes, it says it is likely that this has increased by between 3% and 6% year on year since 2003. Arisings in 2005 could, therefore be between 490,000 and 517,000 tonnes, giving a recycling rate between 9.3% and 9.8%.