Councils tell food manufacturers to do more in plastic waste battle

Only a third of the plastic in packaging pots and trays for food bought by households can be recycled, local authorities have warned. Picture by Katie Collins/PA Wire.
Only a third of the plastic in packaging pots and trays for food bought by households can be recycled, local authorities have warned. Picture by Katie Collins/PA Wire.
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Only a third of plastic used for packaging household food in pots and trays can be recycled, local authorities have warned as they called on manufacturing to intervene.

Town hall bosses want industry to abandon the use of a “smorgasbord” of plastics used to package foods, from fruit and vegetables to yogurts, margarine and microwave meals.

Action is necessary to help cut waste and increase recycling, the Local Government Association (LGA) after its latest research suggested that 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are used by households every year.

Just 169,145 tonnes of that packaging can be recycled however, with two-thirds taken for landfill or incineration.

The LGA said councils had done everything they can to tackle plastic waste. Ninety-nine per cent of local authorities now collect plastic bottles for recycling and 77 per cent pick up pots, tubs and trays.

But food packaging consists of various polymers; the molecules which make up plastic, and they must be separated out to remove low-grade and non-recyclable plastic such as polystyrene.

Some packaging combines different plastics such as the body and lid of a yogurt pot, while fruit and vegetable punnets are made from three types of polymer.

The LGA is calling on manufacturers to work with councils and develop a plan to stop unrecyclable plastic being used, for the Government to consider a ban of low-grade plastics and for producers to help fund the collection or disposal of such products.

Councillor Judith Blake, the LGA’s environment spokeswoman and the leader of Leeds Council, said: “It’s time for manufacturers to stop letting a smorgasboard of unrecyclable and damaging plastic flow into our environment.

“We’ve been calling for producers of unrecyclable material to develop a plan to stop this from entering the environment for years.

“If manufacturers don’t want to get serious about producing material which can be recycled and protecting our environment, then they should at least contribute towards the cost that local taxpayers have to pay to clear it up.”