Resources to enable recycling of household plastic films

WRAP has produced resources to address challenges surrounding the collection and sorting of household plastic film in the UK.

Household plastic film is one of the largest untapped sources of 
recyclable plastic according to the Packflow 2017 Report (2013), which mapped the flows of plastic packaging from consumption to collection, sorting, reprocessing and final end markets. Plastic film comprises a wide range of polymer types and is used as a packaging material for many domestic products. WRAP’s Plastic Packaging Composition Report (2013) estimated that 1.1 million tonnes of plastic film is consumed in the UK each year, and approximately 560,000 tonnes of this is household plastic film.  
 
Household plastic film is becoming increasingly visible within residual waste bins. However, household plastic film can be operationally problematic to collect at the kerbside, sort from other material streams, and reprocess. WRAP has investigated these issues and produced resources to assist. 
 
Kerbside collection and recycling of household plastic film packaging
 
Guidance has been developed to inform local authorities and other collectors of the challenges associated with collecting, sorting and recycling household plastic film. 
 
Where local authorities may be in a position to consider adding plastic film to collections, they should confirm with their MRF operator whether plastic film can be effectively sorted from other materials and whether markets exist for the sorted film plastic. Where both of these criteria cannot be met, local authorities are advised not to target plastic films in their kerbside collections and instead encourage residents to make use of Front of Store Recycling (FOSR) points or other bring-based facilities.
 
To find out more, have a look at the guide.
 
Addressing barriers to sorting plastic films collected co-mingled at kerbside
 
The majority of local authorities in the UK do not target plastic film as part of their collection scheme largely due to technical barriers and the added cost of collection. WRAP has therefore undertaken research to address issues associated with the sorting of plastic films in order to maximise the amount of materials diverted from landfill and to achieve recycling targets. 
 
The research shows that new variants on conventional near-infrared (NIR) sorters offer the potential to address the technical challenges of sorting plastic films. The trials show how the NIRs with Turbosorters® separate the majority of household PE film from the 2D fraction of a UK kerbside co-mingled collection. 
 
The economic assessment suggests that using NIR sorters of the type tested may be more beneficial than hand sorting in UK MRFs processing household plastic film from co-mingled kerbside collection, due to the reduced operating costs of NIR sorters.
 
Additionally, the research shows that resulting PE film could be successfully reprocessed through existing facilities to produce a high quality PE pellet suitable for end-market application