A report entitled ‘Tipping Point’ from packaging recycler and manufacturer DS Smith suggests that the UK’s kerbside recycling infrastructure is not set up to cope with packaging materials from a growth in online retail sales.
The report stated that there had been “chronic under-investment” in the UK’s waste management system, while the amount of packaging waste generated through e-commerce has rocketed.
According to DS Smith, around 18% of UK retail sales are made online. This equates to 1.9 billion a year, and with parcels 10 years the number of parcels will grow by a further 50%.
The report also said: “We risk missing the 2035 recycling target [65% of municipal waste] by over a decade… official figures today expose a creaking recycling infrastructure that is nearing overload.”
Speaking to letsrecycle.com, Jochen Behr, head of recycling at DS Smith, emphasised that “quality is key” to driving up recycling rates.
“Waste separation is from my point of view, key,” he said. “With commingled it’s very difficult to separate the different streams. So, I think let’s make sure that we do it right when the consumers are there to separate.
“And then yes, make it easy for consumers around the labelling so they know how to recycle. “
Mr Behr also pointed out the need for a joined-up approach.
“I think we need to make sure that we have holistic processes from the design of packaging which is designed for recyclability, to collection systems which made it convenient and easy for consumers to do the right collection, to segregating the different waste streams,” he said.