In a press release published on May 8, 2020, it was announced that researchers from Brunel University London and the University of Leeds have published a report investigating England’s management of plastic packaging waste and identified needed improvements. Working together with the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and stakeholders including the waste management sector, the report “found that the current system of collecting and managing plastic packaging waste disadvantages local authorities and discourages efforts to invest in green infrastructure to exploit technological change.” The costs associated with collecting and managing waste within the current system are leading local authorities to signing very long waste management contracts. This has been identified as a barrier to making important changes in local infrastructure and as limiting innovation.
The report’s authors argue that the costs for local authorities should be reduced though a fairer distribution of value in the system by implementing extended producer responsibility and deposit return schemes. Lead author of the report, Eleni Iacovidou of Brunel University London, commented that “innovation in the waste and recycling industry is really swift, but our local authorities cannot take advantage under the current system.” She believes that “confronting and breaking the lock-ins to current regulations and infrastructures is [sic] key to achieving radical transformations in the plastic packaging system and in resource recovery systems more generally.” A new systems approach named Complex Value Optimization for Resource Recovery (CVORR) was applied in the study to identify the current problems and consider the many possible solutions within the complexity of the packaging system. The report has also put forward a new set of metrics based on environmental, economic, social, and technical aspects to measure progress towards a target set by the UK government for the country to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2050.
The UK announced in March 2020 that it is moving forward with a tax on plastic packaging not containing at least 30% recycled content (FPF reported), and it announced earlier in February 2019 a wider plan to overhaul its entire waste system (FPF reported).
Brunel University London (May 8, 2020). “Plastic packaging waste recycling efforts stifled by regulatory and technological ‘lock-in’.”
Karen Laird (May 8, 2020). “UK plastic packaging waste management system desperately needs overhauling, finds new report.” Sustainable Plastics
Iacovidou, E. et al. (May 2020). “Plastic packaging – How do we get to where we want to be?.” (pdf)