The figure was revealed this week by HDPE producer Nampak Plastics Europe, and is contained in a report written by Recoup (Recycling of Used Plastics), the full version of which is scheduled for publication in early December.
Revealed in Recoup’s ‘UK Household Plastics Packaging Collection Survey 2011’, the 76 per cent recycling rate compares with a 72 per cent figure for 2009, and follows a 57 per cent rise in 2008.
The report found that, of 281,000 tonnes of plastic bottles (in total) collected for recycling in 2010, HDPE milk bottles represented 93,000 tonnes.
Recoup attributed the rise to a growth in UK kerbside collections, with 21.7m households now having access to plastic kerbside collection.
The company added that an estimated 83 per cent of all household plastic bottles are collected for recycling via this route.
High landfill costs
But the report noted that despite the increase in recycling rates, an estimated 22,700 tonnes of HDPE were still sent to landfill in 2010.
Sending this quantity of HDPE to landfill cost an estimated £1.8m a year, while the material had a potential recyclable sales value of £8m.
Asked what could be done to tap this resource, the loss of which he described as “unacceptable”, James Crick, business development director at Nampak told DairyReporter.com:
“To get the rest the remaining 10 per cent (approximately) of local authorities to offer to collect who currently don’t appear to, and for people who do not separate out their plastic milk bottles and put them into recycling bins to be encouraged to do so.
“Also need further investment at materials recovery facilities (MRFs) to ensure plastic bottles are separated.”
Recycling investment needed
Nonetheless, Crick said the Recoup report made for encouraging reading, and added:
“Local authorities, industry and the wider public should be applauded for achieving an impressive 76% recycling rate for HDPE milk bottles. When you consider that there was virtually no recovery of this packaging waste stream as recently as 2002, progress has been considerable.”
From Nampak’s perspective, Crick said the increased availability of recycled material would support its supply of recycled HDPE bottles to customers, “helping us to play our part in achieving the Dairy Roadmap’s targets of 30% rHDPE by 2015 and 50% rHDPE by 2020.”
And despite praising local authorities for collecting more plastic bottles from homes in 2010, Crick urged further action.
“The government must encourage further investment in plastics recycling facilities and local authorities have a vital role to play in encouraging consumer participation in recycling schemes.”