New research shows a 68% increase in plastic bottle recycling rates

3rd June 2008

As local authorities offer more efficient methods of collection, the weight of plastic bottles being collected for recycling in the UK has increased by 68%, according to new research funded by WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) and undertaken by Valpak in partnership with Recoup (RECycling Of Used Plastics).

The findings in the Annual Local Authorities Plastics Collection Survey 2008 indicates that UK collections are now weighing in at almost 182 thousand tonnes, the equivalent of 4.5 billion plastic bottles per annum. UK households use 525,300 tonnes or approximately 13 billion plastic bottles each year with the latest statistics suggesting that in the last year, there has been a 15 percentage point increase to 35% in the number collected.   In 2003 the figure stood at just 5.5%. 

The survey reveals that kerbside collections continue to pay a key role in increasing plastic recycling rates with 81% of plastic bottles being collected through this method in 2007, a significant 77% increase on 2006 figures.  The number of local authorities collecting plastic bottles through bring and kerbside schemes has remained at 92% indicating that efficiency and awareness are the main factors to success. 

Since 2006, there has been a 22% increase in bring sites with 7,750 banks across the UK collecting plastic bottles and an anticipated growth to 9,142 sites by 2009. 

Other key findings revealed in the latest annual survey include: 

  • 73% (321) of local authorities have bring collection facilities, however, an increasing number of local authorities collect plastic bottles solely through kerbside schemes; 27% in 2007 compared with 18% in 2006 (a total 70% of local authorities offer some form of kerbside scheme)
  • 14.4 million households are now covered by kerbside collections an increase from 13.9 million in 2006 

The survey also forecast the continued growth of plastic bottle collections based on past performance being maintained. If the trends continue then collections rates could increase to 50% in 2008 and 71% in 2009, after which the potential growth rate is predicted to slow. 

The survey also looked at the collection of other households plastics.  Results showed an increase from 2006 in the number of local authorities making these collections.  The findings revealed that there are still barriers to the collection of mixed plastics, such as contamination and end markets.  These need to be addressed to ensure that mixed plastics are collected with the same success as plastic bottles.  

Paul Davidson, Plastics Technology Manager at WRAP, comments on the survey findings: “This survey has shown a significant increase in collection rates.  Local authorities must be congratulated on developing their schemes to make them more accessible to residents through additional bring sites and more effective kerbside collections. There has been a definite growth in recycle rates which is a positive benefit to the environment.” 

Paul added: “The figure for collecting other household plastics is also encouraging but additional work needs to be completed in this area to support local authorities who are involved in or keen to develop their mixed plastics collection.” 

Local authorities looking for advice on their recycling schemes can contact WRAP’s recycling advisory service ROTATE.  ROTATE provides technical and operational guidance and advice on key issues for plastic bottle recycling, such as marketing and promotion, end markets, performance monitoring and evaluation. The support given is practical, and tailored to the specific needs of individual local authorities.

  • WRAP helps individuals, businesses and local authorities to reduce waste and recycle more, making better use of resources and helping to tackle climate change.
  • Established as a not-for-profit company in 2000, WRAP is backed by government funding from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Working in seven key areas (Construction, Retail, Manufacturing, Organics, Business Growth, Behavioural Change, and Local Authority Support), WRAP’s work focuses on market development and support to drive forward recycling and materials resource efficiency within these sectors, as well as wider communications and awareness activities including the multi-media national Recycle Now campaign for England.
  • More information on all of WRAP's programmes can be found on www.wrap.org.uk