Introduce a recycling fee on plastic containers in the UK!
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The UK is in somewhat of a recycling crisis, with recycling rates declining for the first time in 2015/16. Many of the country's largest reprocessors of recyclable materials are closing due to increased financial problems, foreign competition and challenging market conditions. At the same time, there is increasing pressure on governments and corporations to reduce the amount of plastic waste in our oceans.
A small fee placed on disposable containers, in particular plastic bottles would provide an ideal solution to this problem.
Recently I was in Alberta, Canada, which has one of the most sophisticated recycling systems in North America. The cornerstone to its success is the Container Recycling Fee, a mandatory fee paid on all disposable plastic, metal, glass and composite containers. This fee is then used to cover the cost of recovering and recycling used containers, ensuring that local people are directly responsible for the adequate recycling of their own waste.
Similarly to the highly successful carrier bag charges introduced across the UK in recent years, a small fee of 2 - 5 pence paid on disposable containers, in particular plastic containers will ensure that more of the material is recycled and allow containers to be reprocessed in the UK, providing a complete paper trail for recycled materials from purchase to end use.
A fee will also encourage people to think twice about how and where they dispose of these items. As people will have personally paid for the container, this will empower the public to place containers into litter bins and to recycle their containers where possible. This will reduce the amount of litter on our streets and beaches and will ensure that less plastic enters our watercourses and oceans (one fifth of all plastic is estimated to end up in our oceans where it is having a direct negative effect on sea animals and on our beaches. Experts predict that, if nothing is done there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050).
The money raised from the fee could be paid directly to local councils and used to offset the cost of litter picking (currently estimated at between £717million and £850million per year to the taxpayer) or to improve recycling services (in times of austerity many local authorities are struggling to fund comprehensive recycling services for their residents). Alternatively, like in Canada, the fee could be paid directly to reprocessors to help offset the cost of recycling the materials. This would be particularly useful to plastic reprocessors, who are struggling to find markets for their recycled plastic due to low oil prices. The fee would therefore ensure that plastic containers were recycled in the UK, contributing to the circular economy and reducing carbon emissions associated with transporting recycled materials to markets outside of Europe.
In summary, a Container Recycling Fee on disposable plastic containers will:
- Reduce litter associated with disposable containers, particularly plastics, by empowering people and encouraging them to dispose of their waste sustainably.
- Ensure a direct and sustained reduction in the amount of plastic in our oceans and watercourses.
- Increase the amount of containers recycled in the UK, particularly plastic containers, helping the UK to reverse the recent decrease in recycling rates.
- Provide much needed funds for local authorities which could then be spent on improving local recycling facilities or to offset the cost of litter picking.
- Ensure that more materials are recycled more often in the UK, reducing carbon associated with exporting recyclables, feeding the circular economy and keeping much needed jobs in the UK.
- Allow end users of recycled materials, such as bottlers and packaging producers to increase the amount of recycled content in containers, reducing the need to use new resources to provide these materials, minimising unnecessary carbon emissions.
- Showcase the UK as a world leader in environmental sustainability.
You can read more about Alberta's Container Recycling Fee by following this link: http://www.abcrc.com/container-information/crf/
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