On the back of the British Plastics Federation’s (BPF) chemical recycling event came the BPF’s annual mechanical recycling seminar – an in-person event held at the IOM3 in London on 24th November. ×
We are more than pleased to report a very good turnout at the IOM3’s Euston Road HQ for the BPF’s Recycling Plastics: Market Trends and Innovation event, together with a very good balance of papers and debate from recyclers, waste contractors, plastics manufacturers and others from across the wider supply chain. The event was held in collaboration with Plastics Europe.
Half the battle in forums such as these depends on an engaged and informed chairman steering the content. Once again, chairman of the BPF Recycling Group, Roger Baynham of Philip Tyler Polymers, provided these qualities in spades, steering discussions to logical outcomes and teasing out implications for the industry and for the future.
Roger’s introduction to the event covered the general background as well as posing a number of questions that the sector will need answered — and sooner rather than later.
As governments throughout the world — not least in the UK — prepare to fix the legislative goalposts with regard to recyclability, timing and targets, the phrase – ‘unintended consequences’ — is one that readily comes to mind. For example, will the UK’s proposed ban on the export of plastic waste galvanise the industry — and the UK government — into creating better infrastructure at home' Or will it potentially overwhelm the existing network of UK recyclers and suppliers'
Roger made the point that needs to also be considered as society focuses on mitigating climate change:
“Recycling itself has got to be sustainable,” he said. “Recycling at any cost cannot make sense. If the resources and energy consumed by collecting, sorting and recycling waste is greater than that of prime production, alarm bells should be ringing!”
Roger also noted that: “whilst there is no doubt that there is still a very active anti-plastic lobby, my sense is that there is also some small shift in the reporting of issues to include a more pragmatic perspective, which now recognises the enormous complexity of the subject. Key to this is the need for the world to adopt low carbon materials which are less resource intensive in the battle against climate change.”
The Cambridge University/McKinsey presentation later that morning went a considerable way towards answering that point. Dr Fanram Meng, Churchill College Sustainability Fellow, presented ground-breaking work that showed that in 14 out of 16 applications analysed, plastics have better life cycle assessment performance and therefore a lower environmental impact than alternative materials. Plastics proved superior in grocery bags, soft drinks containers, water pipes, insulation, furniture, carpets and t-shirts.
In food packaging especially, the world has few alternatives to the low-carbon nature of plastic packaging. PET bottles, for example, produce significantly less greenhouse gas emissions than alternative containers.
S&P Global provided insights into recent polymer prices and volumes – for both virgin and recycled material. In the following discussion it was noted that in 2021 recycled materials were more competitive than virgin but in 2022 this has gone into reverse — and now, less competitive, they are once again facing challenges.
Our friends at RECOUP have done sterling work in mapping the UK’s recycling infrastructure and Steve Morgan’s presentation highlighted the current gaps between recycling targets and performance and illustrating the work needed to close them.
Later in the day, Linda Crichton from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) gave us up-to-the-minute detail of the government’s current intentions and the proposed timelines within which recycling targets were to be met.
For many companies, meeting these targets will need government support, so Paul Davidson followed, who is the director for the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge within UK Research and Innovation. He provided a witty and incisive exploration of the guidelines available for plastics recyclers when applying for UK-based funds.
Berry Global’s Circular Value Chain Director Mark Roberts also unveiled the company’s new food contact PP product – a world first. Co-founder & CEO of Greyparrot Mikela Druckman revealed and summarised the astounding waste sorting technology now available via her company – a combination of optical sensors, robotics and artificial intelligence that could revolutionise the world of MRFs and PRFs. Back to Search Results
Untitled design - 1 BPF Senior Recycling Issues Executive Helen Jordan reports on the proceedings: