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What’s next for plastic recycling?

Plastics recycling

Plastic recycling may have long been important to UNTHA, but few people would have considered it a mainstream topic of interest in the UK.

Until now.

David Attenborough is one of the many reasons it has shot into the spotlight, with his renowned Blue Planet II series highlighting the severity of the irresponsible plastic disposal problem blighting our oceans. And whilst it is a mighty challenge, keeping plastics out of the sea is incredibly important, as our client Manchip has been emphasising for some time. It’s therefore great to hear members of the public, beyond our industry, acknowledging that change is needed.

But that’s not all.

There have been a number of reports about China’s refusal to take plastic waste from countries like the UK, and such a bold move has naturally dominated the headlines.

In truth the country is still accepting residual material, but the imports are now quality driven like never before. Purity rates of 98% are now being demanded as standard, which means there is no longer a place for contaminated plastics. This may have been a long time coming if you think about it… why should another country clean up someone else’s mess?

Plastic ‘waste’ is now firmly the UK’s problem. Or should that be opportunity?

British recovery businesses can still export plastics to China if they wish, but the material must be processed so that it fits the bill! Exactly what system is required to conduct this processing, depends on the nature of the waste handling scenario at hand. And sometimes the magnitude of the investment can deter operators from taking on the challenge. Other times of course, the processing line will be far simpler, and there are always turnkey solutions available on financed packages.

But recyclers must also ask themselves… is export the only option?

Isn’t there an argument that we should be picking up the role that China had, especially if recycled plastics are going to come back to the UK anyway?

Yes plastics recovery operations are energy intensive and margins can sometimes be small. But not non-existent. And we all know the resource security benefits associated with more closed loop materials handling models. We can become more self-sufficient as a nation, we’ll boost our environmental credentials and create jobs in the process. We’ll also be better protected from any new export tariffs that may be imposed as a result of Brexit.

It is difficult to predict exactly how the plastics industry will evolve of course. The market is in a state of flux, which makes analysis virtually impossible as nobody has a crystal ball. But doing nothing is no longer an option. It will be interesting to see who moves first, and who turns the challenge into an opportunity.

If you want to talk to a member of the team about an UNTHA plastic shredder, please call 0845 450 5388 or email You can also check out the newest plastic shredder to be added to our range – the QR, perfect for production waste, plastic packaging and more. 

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Excel House, Becklands Close,
Bar Lane, Roecliffe, Boroughbridge
YO51 9NR York
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UNTHA UK is the country’s leading supplier of innovative waste shredding technology and waste management expertise. Combining unparalleled technological manufacturing capabilities with decades of UK marketplace and shredding application expertise, UNTHA UK delivers an insightful, personable and value-adding service which has cemented the company’s position as the number one waste machinery provider in the country. ISOQAR Registered
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