Closer collaboration is key to raising recycling rates
13th January 2020
Closer collaboration between supermarkets and recycling companies is crucial to raising recycling rates, according to Viridor's head of sustainability Dan Cooke.
Mr Cooke has backed a new Green Alliance report which warned that some companies are on the verge of switching from plastic packaging to materials which could have a greater impact on the environment because of pressure from the public.
The report suggests that some of those plastic alternatives could be more harmful to the environment in the long run, when taking factors such as carbon emissions into account.
Mr Cooke said: "The often kneejerk reactions of some buyers and brands can cause frustration for recycling companies as they move away from inherently recyclable packaging types into materials like coated cardboard and composites that are less recyclable and that can have a worse environmental impact.
“We work closely with supermarkets and brand owners on recyclability and to align recycling services with their requirements.
"There's still an obvious need for improved collaboration and better policy to enable investment in technology and infrastructure that will sustainably raise recycling rates for post-consumer materials.”
One of the examples highlighted by the Green Alliance report was plastic bags.
Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury's have all recently switched from single-use plastic bags to single-use paper bags for loose products, such as those from the bakery section.
The report said: "This is a worrying trend as paper bags, which are often just as unnecessary as their plastic counterparts, can have much higher carbon impacts, though this can depend on material sources and product specification.
"In the absence of government direction, a disjointed and potentially counterproductive approach to solving plastic pollution is emerging."
The new report, entitled 'Plastic promises: What the grocery sector is really doing about packaging', quotes industry insiders, showing that bigger changes are on the way that could have negative consequences, including higher carbon emissions and lower packaging recyclability.
It found that consumers were confused about biodegradable plastic, with 80 per cent of consumers thinking it was an environmentally-friendly product. Experts called for a clearer approach in how it should be used and marked to avoid problems.
There were also calls for more government intervention in future developments and setting standards, so that action is coherent across the industry.
Libby Peake, senior policy adviser on resources at Green Alliance, said: "The public are right to be outraged about plastic pollution. But what we don't want is, a few years down the line, for them to be outraged about new environmental problems caused by the alternatives.
"We need to address the root of the problem, our throwaway society.
"Companies need much more help from the government to tackle plastic pollution without making climate change and other environmental impacts worse in the process."
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