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Plastics recyclers reflect on challenging year

While prices for scrap material are expected to slightly harden this month, on the back of higher transitional PRN prices, recyclers have pointed to incoming changes to the Basel Convention which threaten to cause disruption to waste plastic exports from January 2021. This follows a year in which the sector has struggled with low virgin plastic prices, plummeting PRN price support, falling demand from export destinations and reduced demand for finished products driven by the pandemic. The bright spots are the upcoming plastics tax which is set for 2022, and that the government is supporting a number of domestic plastics recycling projects. In the short-term at least, however, there is considerable concern in the plastics recycling marketplace. “The market is stable but it is still terrible and there is no good news for next year,” one recycler told letsrecycle.com. “The changes will drive prices to the negative.” “There could be a glut of material after Christmas followed by a shortage of outlets due to difficulty in exporting it in the short term,” another predicted, “meaning that UK reprocessors may find themselves swamped with material.” Basel Convention The Basel Convention is the international treaty governing waste shipments between nations. Changes (see here) have been introduced which will see new requirements around plastic waste coming into force on January 1. This will see some plastic waste types that are currently exported under ‘green list’ procedures have to be notified, involving more time and complexity. Meanwhile, under Brexit, there will also be new arrangements for the movement of waste between the UK and the EU. The UK is likely to be treated as any other OECD country or other country party to Basel convention that intends to export waste to an EU country. One recycler said: “The Basel Convention and Brexit changes will make export more difficult and some lower grade material could consequently end up in incineration. It may improve quality and drive investment in UK reprocessing, but I think in the short term it will have a negative impact.” PRNs Many in the sector are also predicting that the price of PRNs – Packaging Waste Recovery Notes – will remain low in 20201, despite Defra last month announcing an increase in the plastic packaging recycling target from 57% in 2020 to 59% in 2021 and 61% in 2022. This is because there is expected to be a large carry over of PRNs from 2020 into 2021, reducing demand next year. There is also expected to be a reduced obligation for producers as this is based on reduced market activity in 2020, effectively counteracting the target increase. PRNs are recycling evidence which packaging producers must buy under producer responsibility legislation, providing price support for recycling. Prices for plastics PRNs have already fallen from highs of £275-350 a tonne in February to just single figures last month, on the back of high reported recycling levels. These levels have been questioned by some in the sector amid questions over possible fraud. PET As winter has hit, the economics of plastics recycling have been tested further as demand for end products has continued to suffer and recyclers continue to struggle to compete with low virgin plastic prices. The market has also been impacted by reduced demand for material from Turkey, which has traditionally been a big off taker for material but which announced plans in September 2020 to cut imports by 50%. “There is a lot of nervousness due to the pandemic about the winter so people are not spending money,” one commentator said. “Turkey has also had a big impact.” One material which has been particularly hit in recent months is PET, the plastic used for most drinks bottles. The seasonal drop-off in demand for this material in the colder months has been reportedly been exacerbated by people staying at home even more then usual during the second English lockdown. “PET is on its backside,” said one recycler. “No-one is buying drinks on the go as they are not going out so it is creating a double whammy effect. We are also capturing more because people are at home so there is an oversupply.” Future Despite ongoing challenges, however, there is hope of a bright future for the industry, with the advent of the plastics tax in April 2022, extended packaging producer responsibility and increasing environmental measures both at home and abroad expected to drive up demand for material. Orginal Source

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Retailers prepare to take back WEEE instore

In a shake-up of recycling obligations, large retailers who have a turnover for sales of electronic equipment in excess of £100,000 will be required to take back WEEE instore from 2021. Previously, retailers who sold electrical goods could pay a fee which covered their recycling obligations under the distributor take-back scheme (DTS). The money was passed to local authorities to fund WEEE collection facilities at civic amenity sites and household waste recycling centres (HWRCs). The fourth phase of the DTS came to an end on 31 December 2019. While a proposed new phase was approved by Defra for 2020 and 2021, it only extends to large retailers until 31 December 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story). From then, they will be required to do instore take-back in line with current WEEE regulations. This means that from the 1 January there will be more than 10,000 retailer collection points across the UK for WEEE, up from the estimated 400-500 there are currently. The roll-out of the new system has been somewhat overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic. It seems likely it will be introduced with little fanfare. But retailer locations are often far more convenient than HWRCs given their longer opening times and the fact they’re frequently better connected to transport networks for those without cars. So what does instore take-back mean in practice? How does such a scheme actually work? Consumers At the most basic level, the scheme is going to be run on a like-for-like basis. This means anyone buying a new kettle will be able to return an old one. Brand and cost are not considered relevant factors here, but function and usage are. Take-back is to be offered by retailers on a one-to-one basis; that is, a product can be returned when another is bought. A receipt will be considered proof of sale, and as long as an old item is returned within 28 days of a receipt being issued it will be accepted. Some retailers may go beyond their minimum requirements and accept anything back. Indeed, retailers with more than 400 square metres of floor space must accept ‘very small items’ irrespective of purchase. Very small WEEE is defined as items with dimensions no greater than 25cm on any side or edge. For some items, such as lightbulbs, an item could be returned at the same time as buying a new one. For larger items, such as fridges, this may be more difficult, though it would still technically be allowed at specific stores. Retailers Retailers will be obliged to offer information about their take-back services to customers at the point of sale, for example in the form of posters located at or near to tills or checkouts Brands with multi-site stores selling a variety of different products have been advised they may need to communicate differently in different stores. They should also make sure their staff advise consumers that larger goods can only be returned to specific stores. In terms of where they actually collect the waste items, retailers are free to do what they want. Take-back could take place at the tills, a product return counter or an information desk. Once they have received the items, there are no specific requirements as to what the retailers must do. It is believed many will offset what they collect against their own obligations. Orginal Source

Greenzone DMR Waste

L’Oréal launches solid shampoo bars with ‘zero plastic waste

Garnier is launching a range of shampoo bars in the UK, marking the first move by a major mass market beauty brand to offer consumers ‘alternatives to traditional liquid shampoo products with zero plastic waste’, it says. The bars are packaged in 100% recyclable FSC certified cardboard, blended with 94% plant-based ingredients and are ‘97% biodegradable’ (as per OECD test 301 or equivalent, according to Garnier), have 80% less packaging and use 70% less fossil energy for transportation compared to a conventional shampoo bottle. As a result of the small and concentrated format, one solid Shampoo Bar can last up to 2 months, the brand says, and can save up to one bottle of water per wash because of the incorporated fast-rinse technology. In a full lifecycle analysis, this accounts for a reduction in environmental impact of 25% versus classic liquid shampoos, it says. Aurelie Weinling, International Scientific and Sustainability Director, Garnier said “We hope product developments such as this will lead to a genuine democratisation of the solid shampoo category in mass-market terms. “The first formula trials started in July 2019 and we are thrilled to be able to now bring this new range to market today. We believe sustainability needs to be made accessible to all so we can achieve real impact at scale.” Garnier’s original Ultimate Blends shampoo and conditioner bottles are already 100% recyclable and will be made from 100% recycled plastic by 2021. Garnier produces 1.8 billion health & beauty products each year across 64 countries and hopes its considerable reach will lead to more consumers making sustainable choices. The L’Oréal-owned brand launched its Green Beauty Initiative alongside a publicly-available sustainability progress report this year as part of the Group’s L’Oréal For the Futureii sustainability programme, which defines quantifiable targets for 2030 to improve packaging, fight climate change, preserve biodiversity and sustain water management. As part of this, alongside transforming its own products and packaging, L’Oréal has ambitions to influence both consumers and suppliers to reduce their own environmental footprints, it says. The Garnier Ultimate Blends Shampoo Bars will be available in four blends, Revitalising Ginger, Strengthening Honey, Hydrating Coconut and Softening Oat Milk. Garnier says its scientists spent 18 months evaluating more than 60 formulas to achieve all the care, foaminess and creaminess of a liquid shampoo in a new solid format. Garnier Ultimate Blends Shampoo Bars are now available in Boots and will be rolled out to other retail stores in 2021. Orginal Source

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Packaging waste targets issued for 2021-22

Defra has published the packaging waste recycling targets for businesses for 2021 and 2022. And, it has confirmed that there will be no recovery targets, with the consequence that recovery evidence will not be needed from energy from waste plants from next year. Initial reaction to the targets, published this morning (9 November) and seen below, is that there is a “significant” 4% rise for paper in both 2021 and 2022, and glass remelt has also seen a large rise moving from 67% in 2020 to 72% next year. The biggest fall can be seen for wood, which has dropped from 48% to 35% in line with EU targets, which is thought to reflect the demand for a large amount of material being used by the biomass sector and potential errors in past years when the targets were higher than those in EU nations. Recovery Defra confirmed that in line with the proposals in the consultation and the EU Directive on packaging and packaging waste, “there is no longer a target for recovery of packaging waste and so no recovery obligation for 2021 and 2022”. “The targets refer solely to recycling,” Defra added, explaining that there will be no accreditation for recovery operators for 2021 and 2022. In cases where the material specific obligation is higher than the obligation generated by the overall recycling target, the higher amount shall apply when calculating a producer recycling obligation. Provisional The targets are somewhat different to those proposed in a Defra consultation document in February 2019. For example, glass targets have been reduced from a proposed 84% in 2021 and 87% in 2022 to 81% and 82% respectively. Plastic targets have been cut from a proposed 61% in 2021 and 65% in 2022, to 59% and 61% in the confirmed targets. There have also been reductions in the steel targets —from a proposed 88% in 2021 and 90% in 2022 to 86% and 88% — and glass remelt, which dropped from 84% in 2020 and 87% in 2021 to 81% and 82% respectively. Paper, wood and aluminium were unchanged from the proposed targets. Orginal Source

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Zero Waste Awards relaunched

First set up in 2010, the scheme has been updated to reflect businesses that aspire to “move waste up the hierarchy” and increase the amount of waste they prevent, reuse and recycle. The scheme is launched by Environment Media Group (EMG), parent company of letsrecycle.com, and represents a community of 500 likeminded businesses. Previous winners include the NHS, ITV studios, Santander Canary Wharf, Diageo and Network rail. The Zero Waste Awards aim to provide a platform for collaboration, knowledge sharing and access to expert advice, provided by sector-specific scheme partners These hand-picked partners include packaging waste experts Wastepack  and outsourced resource management provider and consultancy Reconomy. Nathan Gray, head of sustainability at Reconomy, said: “Reconomy is delighted to be partnering with the Zero Waste Awards and helping to recognise those businesses that have made great progress toward zero waste as part of their sustainability strategy. Resource management has such an important role in the overall context of reducing carbon emissions and as we build back from the impact of the pandemic”. Categories The scheme is split into eight sector categories ranging from hospitality to healthcare and construction. This will enable entrants to measure themselves again comparable businesses in the same industry. To enter, businesses can visit www.zerowasteawards.com/enter and complete the free entry form. Winners will be recognised at a celebration and networking ceremony in July 2021. For a quick, two minute health check on waste and recycling credentials, businesses can complete the ‘Zerowasteometer’, which is created by scheme partner Reconomy. The scheme is non-competitive and entries are accepted throughout the year. The overall aim of the scheme is to build a community of likeminded businesses and provide a platform for them to collaborate to reduce their environmental impact. Orginal Source

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Retail industry to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2040

The BRC’s new Climate Action Roadmap has outlined strategies to decarbonise the retail sector and its supply chains with five key areas for action. The overall aim is that by 2040 all products that consumers buy or rent will have minimal impact on the environment. These key areas include putting decarbonisation at the core of business decision making, reducing carbon emissions from shops, moving to net-zero logistics operations, increasing sustainably sourced products, and supporting customers and employees to carry out low carbon lifestyles. The BRC also committed to exploring new innovations such as carbon-absorbing clothes or drone delivery to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint. “Climate change is a threat that none of us can afford to ignore,” BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said. “The BRC Climate Action Roadmap is a clear and decisive statement that the retail industry is ready to take on this challenge – to be part of the solution. “By 2040, we want every UK customer to be able to make purchases – in-store and online – safe in the knowledge that they are not contributing to global heating. “Never before has an entire industry been so ambitious in tackling climate change. Retail is the critical gateway between vast international supply chains and every one of us as citizens. “We have a fantastic opportunity to make a real global difference if we can all work collectively.” WWF head of climate change Gareth Redmond-King said: “Business has a huge role to play in tackling the climate crisis – every business leader must decide urgently whether they are working towards a 1.5°C future and stand up and be counted. Orginal Source