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Calls to create more consistent recycling policies

DS Smith has called on the UK Government to create a more clear and uniform recycling system

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The UK Government has been criticised for its inconsistent dedication to environmental policies

A provider of sustainable packaging solutions has highlighted gaps in the UK’s approach to recycling as recent research by the company shows the UK will miss its long-term recycling target by up to 13 years. 

The media has recently reported that the UK Government could delay its plans for an extended responsibility for packaging (EPR) scheme, which was originally due to take place in 2024. 

According to Eurostat, the UK is placed 8th in Europe for recycling rates, with other comparisons putting the UK at 28th for paper and card recycling.

With the boom of e-commerce and the increased popularity of paper and card in POS and signage, UK recycling rates have stagnated. 

With a recycling rate of 44.6% the country has already missed its 50% target set by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs. 

Miles Roberts, group chief executive at DS Smith, comments: “The role of paper and cardboard packaging has changed completely over the last decade as consumers have bought more shopping online. With more packaging now coming into the home, our recycling infrastructure needs huge investment and a consistent policy so every householder can effectively recycle. 

The problems highlighted by DS Smith are problems shared by sign-makers and end-users who are using more and more paper-based products in retail, exhibitions, and events. 

DS Smith points out that there are 300 or more different recycling systems across England’s local authorities. This gets more complicated in cities like London where recycling can change from street to street.

While businesses deal with recycling and waste collection in different ways, it's important for consumers in different sectors and parts of the country to come together on issues such as a lack of clarity on recycling. 

The UK and the world are still feeling the effects of not having a universal guide or set of imagery for recycling, with many products and materials not clearly labelling how to recycle at end-of-life. 

Roberts adds: “If the UK is to successfully transition to a circular economy, we must treat materials such as cardboard, as a currency and not waste. Separate collections of cardboard and paper would reduce contamination, driving up recycling rates and providing millions of pounds to the UK economy. 

“The amount of recyclable cardboard that is going to landfill or incineration in this country today is unacceptable and counter to the country’s ambitions to be one of the world’s environmental leaders.” 

However, the UK’s failure in recycling rates is not consistent throughout the UK. The Welsh Government has focused on separate collections for paper, metal, glass, and plastics, known as "source segregation". Central funding support for local authorities and a series of policy drivers have meant the country has had a more consistent approach to recycling collections. 

By introducing rules such as fines for councils that miss statutory targets, Wales has a strong recycling rate of 56.7%.

If you’d like to share news or opinions with us feel free to email at news@signlink.co.uk or join in with the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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