Mixed plastics packaging

Mixed plastic is a term that covers all non-bottle plastic packaging from households. It includes rigid and flexible plastic packaging items of various polymer types and colours and excludes plastic bottles and non-packaging items.

Over one million tonnes of mixed plastics packaging from households are disposed of in the UK each year and the drive to develop sustainable waste management options for mixed plastics packaging is gaining momentum.

The move towards greater recycling levels is being fuelled by a number of factors including the rising cost of waste disposal alongside increasing public demand for more efficient and environmentally sound ways of diverting waste from landfill.

Mixed plastics can be further sub divided into rigid plastics (pots, tubs, trays) and films or flexible plastics.

In the UK in 2011/12 45% of Local Authorities provided kerbside collections of non-bottle rigid plastics (pots, tubs, trays) and 13% collected films at the kerbside (in addition to those collecting carrier bags only).

Assessing the viability of recycling mixed plastics in the UK

In 2008 WRAP published the results of research into the waste management options for mixed plastics and concluded that mechanical recycling is environmentally the best option for mixed plastics and that it is technically and economically viable to recycle mixed plastics in the UK. WRAP followed this with commercial scale trials and a detailed financial viability assessment.

Following this to help kick start the development of recycling infrastructure in the UK, WRAP awarded a capital grant to Biffa Polymers to open the UK’s first integrated washing and sorting facility for rigid mixed plastics.

WRAP can now offer support to businesses who wish to implement recycling infrastructure for mixed plastics in England through the Mixed Plastics Loan FundA loan fund and capital grant is also available for mixed plastics recycling in Scotland.