Many of the industry’s media headlines have made for grave reading since the European-wide introduction of COVID-19 lockdowns. One of the most startling arrived in UNTHA UK’s mailbox last week, stating ‘Plastic recyclers cease production’.
Delve a little deeper and a number of articles – including one from Plastic Recyclers Europe – cite feelings of uncertainty across the continent, with some recycling operations closing until further notice. The oil slump means virgin plastic prices are extremely low, after all, which has put the profitability of many sites at risk.
We all know what the consequences of inactivity would be – not least the danger that plastics slip down the waste hierarchy, as more environmentally sound priorities become commercially unfeasible.
But as the Plastic Recyclers Europe article pointed out: “Safeguarding the positive developments within this market is essential.”
Over the past 10 years, we’ve seen innovation after innovation change the status quo in plastic processing, and public pressures in the past 18 months have continued to spur on further progress.
It would be devastating for that impetus to be lost. So what role do industry reports have to play?
“These are bold headlines that nobody wants to see,” commented UNTHA UK’s managing director Marcus Brew. “There is of course data underpinning the statements, and the fears for many areas of recycling – not just plastics – are very real.
“But amongst the worrying soundbites are also far more encouraging signs. We’ve had a number of conversations ‘on the ground’ recently, which paint a very different picture – a cautious picture in some instances, but still one of activity, forward planning and innovation.
“These soundbites perhaps wouldn’t encourage the same number of clicks from an email, so they don’t make the headlines. But I wish they did. The Plastic Recyclers Europe article quite rightly stated: Plastics recycling industry calls on the EU and the Member States to include recycling as one of the sectors supported by their Recovery Plans and to continue implementing the measures under the Circular Economy umbrella.
“I’d love to see more articles leading with such calls to arms.”
Only last week, UNTHA UK’s sales director Gary Moore participated in an online knowledge transfer event, attended by more than 800 industry professionals.
“The waste industry is known for its innovative mindset and its persistence = its ability to devise solutions to problems others thought couldn’t be addressed, and environmental problems some don’t even know we face! Now is not the time to give up.”
Fellow plastic recycling specialist Paul Rendle-Barnes, group director of Indigo Environmental Limited, said: “We only have to look at another industry article from Recoup, which found that the UK’s reprocessing infrastructure may need to double its output of recycled plastic to meet government targets, to see that we must press forwards.
“We know that a tax is set to be levied on plastic packaging containing less than 30% recycled content. This imminent demand for high quality recycled plastic must therefore remain in sharp focus, as there’s work to be done to boost recycling volumes and capacities before April 2022.”