From packaging to pyrolysis: How can you avoid the new plastics pitfalls?

In April this year, the Plastics Packaging Tax came into force, making all businesses which produce or import over 10 tonnes per annum of plastic packaging components liable for a specific material tax if their packaging doesn’t meet a minimum recycled content of 30% by weight.

in brief

  • New legislation has made circular economy practices more important than ever when producing and disposing of plastic.
  • And failing to keep up with these changes, as many are doing, opens your business up to costly financial detriments.
  • But it’s not all doom and gloom – recycled plastic materials are in demand, with companies such as Miele and Logitech incorporating them into their products.
  • And you can’t ignore the emerging innovations in plastics recycling that are offering exciting new ways to reduce and recycle – they’re not futuristic fads, but offer real solutions to the problem of plastic waste.

With Let’s Recycle reporting that the production of plastic is set to almost triple by 2060 to 1.2 billion tonnes, now marks an important time to rethink and reprioritise our relationship with plastic.

And from  2024, businesses placing packaging materials on the market will also be compelled to bear the full costs of the collection, sorting, recycling, and disposal of packaging waste, of which almost 20% is plastic. Additional data collection & reporting requirements look likely to be required from 2023.

We’ve talked about the impact of this before on our blog. And with the Welsh government announcing in late September its plan to completely ban the most commonly littered single-use plastics, it’s clear the government is quite rightly putting action behind its sustainability goals, and that plastics may just be the area leading the change.

As The Times rightly identified, businesses willing to ignore this new legislation are in for a nasty surprise. The title reported that fewer than one in twenty liable businesses actually registered for the new plastic packaging tax in the first month. Whether this has to do with difficulties categorising what items do and do not fall under the tax or a lack of awareness of the new legislation, the risk of substantial costs and even criminal charges is very real.

As our MD Ed Pigg highlighted in The Manufacturer, businesses need to consider the concerns of their customers. We argued that businesses willing to take on the tax burden may be forced to pass on the economic impact to the consumers they serve.

Pictured left, Ed Pigg, Managing Director at Axil Integrated Services.

Taking plastic waste seriously is crucial to avoid economic and reputational damage. But it also holds very real opportunities.

For example, Plastics Recycling World has reported a substantial uptick in appetite for recycled plastic materials from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as the industry begins to recognise that “recycled plastics do not equate to inferior performance”.

Appliance manufacturer Miele says that it is “increasingly relying on recyclates for its portfolio of domestic appliances and white goods,” and computer accessories group Logitech announcing in February that it had “exceeded its commitment to incorporate post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics into products.”

Innovations in plastic recycling are coming thick and fast, and it’s foolish to ignore their potential benefit. From enzymatic recycling involving purified bacteria feeding on polymer bonds, to pyrolysis, the thermal decomposition of plastic at up to 900 degrees Celsius in the absence of oxygen to produce liquid oil, Resource has highlighted that both emerging and common techniques of recycling are being introduced and refined every day.

ESG Report Cover

In our ‘ESG Report’, 29% of businesses said a lack of access to innovation was a top barrier to achieving sustainability goals. With it never being more urgent to reduce the amount of virgin plastic coming onto the market each year, now is the time to embrace those innovations and tackle the plastics problem head on.

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