Rate of recovery and recycling of plastic packaging sinks to 44% in 2021, reversing gains in recent years and making it nearly the worst packaging material for recovery.
Analysis of the latest DEFRA statistics1 reveals that recovery and recycling rates of plastic packaging in the UK dipped in 2021 with waste ending up in the environment rising past 1.4 million tonnes.
The analysis from Nozama, the global sustainability technology company and creator of Plastiks, found that 2,514 thousand tonnes of plastic packaging waste was produced in the UK in 2021.
But with just 1,112 thousand tonnes recycled or recovered, the rate of recycling fell to 44.2%, a sharp drop from the previous two years which had shown signs of improvement with the rate rising from 46.2% in 2019 to 47.2% in 2020.
The figures therefore uncover that the total volume of packaging waste ending up in the environment rose to 1,402 thousand tonnes in 2021 – again higher than 2020 (1,317 thousand tonnes) and 2019 (1,331 thousand tonnes).
The data also shows that recycling rates of plastic packaging remain substantially down on other large sources of packaging waste in the UK. Just under 5.4 billion tonnes of paper and cardboard packaging waste are produced every year but 70.6% of this waste is recycled or recovered while the rate for glass – which also produces more packaging waste than plastic – stands at 73.6%.
The statistics show a need for a renewed focus on eliminating single use plastic waste according to André Vanyi Robin, Founder and CEO of Nozama, who said: “It is frustrating that after recent steady progress in the rates of recovery and recycling of plastic packaging waste, there has been a huge backward step in the past year.
“Plastic waste is one of the most commonly produced materials for packaging and it is disappointing that it accounts for nearly a third of waste that is not being recycled or recovered. It was World Recycling Day this month, but clearly we have a long journey ahead of us to improve the volume of packaging waste that we are keeping out of the environment.
“It is crucial that waste management players are given every encouragement possible to ensure they are doing their utmost to track, recover and recycle single use plastic. And that producers of waste are being held accountable by consumers and other stakeholders to improve the use of plastic as well as how committed they are to ensuring that plastic waste does not end up in the environment.”
Andre said that the growing problem of single use plastic waste was behind the launch of Plastiks in early 2022, as the world’s first utility NFT dedicated to fighting the scourge of global plastic contamination.
“Plastiks is a blockchain-powered bridge between plastic recyclers and producers in the ongoing fight to protect the environment to incentivize a much-needed increase in the amount of plastic recovered for recycling. The Plastiks marketplace enables global waste management companies, especially cooperatives of waste collectors in emerging countries, to turn invoice data into NFTs.
“Each NFT created uses data recorded on the blockchain to certify that a corresponding amount of plastic has been recovered, thus ensuring it doesn’t end up in the environment. Plastic producers and users, as well as NFT collectors, can then buy these utility NFTs from waste management companies, sponsoring plastic recovery and generating direct environmental and social impact in this value chain.
Fernanda Accorsi, Head of Marketing & Communications at Nozama, adds: “These transactions create an additional revenue stream for waste management companies from plastic that’s already been recovered. It empowers and incentivises every player in the Reverse Logistic Supply Chain so that we can reach higher recycling rates and achieve greater transparency in the sector.
“On the other side, plastic producers and users are provided with an opportunity to make a meaningful investment in the recovery of single-use plastic, ensuring that this plastic does not end up in the environment.”