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[GreenYes] UK public confused over recycling bioplastic packaging

UK public confused over recycling bioplastic packaging

By Luke Hutson

Wrap recommends UK Home Composting Standard.

4 May 2007

Consumers are confused when it comes to recycling biodegradable and
compostable plastic packaging, according to a study by the Waste and
Resources Action Programme (Wrap).

Speaking at an event this week organised by Recoup, the organisation
championing plastics recycling in the UK, Wraps key account manager for
brands and suppliers outlined details of the survey completed recently.

Peter Skelton said 400 members of the public had taken part in focus groups
and hall tests the latter involves people being approached on the street and
taken to a nearby venue.

Skelton said the aim of the survey was to gain an understanding of the
public perception of biodegradable and compostable plastic packaging, and
find out what consumers know and how they will behave when recycling.

One of the problems for consumers highlighted by the research was the
indistinguishable nature of a bottle made from polylactic acid (PLA), which
is biodegradable, and one from PET, which isnt.

Skelton told he was unsurprised by the confusion, but surprised by
the level of simplicity that consumers required in terms of recycling

Consumers want to recycle [plastic] bottles all together. They dont want to
start sorting individually, Skelton told the conference.

The study also showed consumers felt cheated if packaging labelled
biodegradable wasnt compostable, which is the case with some biodegradable

Skelton also warned of the problems of contamination and the potential cost
to processors if PLA bottles get into the recycling streams of other

Also speaking at the Recoup event, Tony Breton from Novamont, the producer
of starch-based Mater-Bi, said labelling should simply say whether an item
of packaging was compostable or recyclable, not biodegradable.

When making its recommendations from the study, Wrap will suggest that
merely labelling packaging compostable or biodegradable is not enough, and
that consumers need clear guidance on how to recycle plastic packaging

Wrap will also recommend a Home Compostable Standard, which would have its
own logo and identify packaging that can be home composted, as opposed to
some bioplastics (namely PLA) that require industrial composting.

Plastic bottle recycling is on the increase in the UK and, according to
Recoups chief executive John Simmons, the figures for 2006 are expected to
show a rate of 20%, or 100,000tpa.

The latest developments in Achieving Sustainability in Plastics Packaging
will be discussed at EPNs and PRW's conference on 25-26 September 2007 in
London. For more details go to

Donna Barlow Casey
Executive Director
Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District
137 Barre Street Montpelier, VT 05602
Director@no.address 802-229-9383

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