18 February 2020
As I was walking along part of Wales’ beautiful coastal path at the weekend, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the rubbish brought in on the tide. It got me thinking about the type of economy that Wales should have: a circular one where plastic is re-used. Where discarded plastic containers – for example – don’t become eye sores or landfill waste but become useful products again.
To get rid of this plastic rubbish, we need manufacturers to use the recycled material and consumers to buy their products. It is estimated that just 10% of the plastic used by manufacturers in Wales is recycled material. However, WRAP Cymru’s Market Development Programme team is working hard to increase this figure. As I mentioned in my last blog, this includes supply chain projects to help remove barriers to increasing recycled content in Welsh plastic manufacturing.
I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you a little more about these collaborative projects. We hope they will help greatly increase the use of recycled material and so help address challenges faced across the globe. We are working with more than 20 partner organisations of different sizes, from the private and public sectors. We are seeking to overcome technical issues – such as using recycled materials in products that need to withstand wear and tear – whilst highlighting both economic viability and environmental benefits.
Wales leads the way when it comes to household recycling in the UK and ranks third in the world. We also produce more plastic packaging than we consume. Through projects like these, Welsh manufacturers could be at the forefront of developing innovative ways to increase recycled content. For example, one of our trials sets out to demonstrate a pioneering approach to using recycled materials to produce construction products just as good as their virgin counterparts. This would represent a world first.
In total, we are delivering four projects and are looking forward to sharing positive results with you in due course. Please keep an eye on the following project pages, which we will update to keep you informed of progress:
- Agricultural waste trial: making use of recycled low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
- Trialling recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) in construction and in the transport of hazardous goods
- Using recycled PP in the medical sector and in houseware products
- Recycled polyethylene (PE) and LDPE use in construction
Showing that these new approaches work should give other manufacturers the confidence to use more recycled polymers. Customers will play their part by buying products containing recycled material.
These projects should also act as a catalyst for widespread change, reducing reliance on virgin polymers. It is imperative that new initiatives and business models are adopted to retain plastics in economic use for as long as possible. Not only would this benefit the environment, but it could also be commercially advantageous for businesses. And, when you walk along the coastal path in future, your view will be even better.