Incineration is one solution to stop flexible packaging being landfilled in the UK each year, according to an industry expert.
Envicura, an environmental consultancy from PCI Films Consulting, has released a new report entitled Flexible packaging in the UK municipal waste stream 2011. In the study, flexible packaging materials are defined as polymer films, compostable films, packaging papers and foils and any laminate combination of the latter materials.
The report stated that packaging makes up 20% of municipal waste and flexible packaging makes up 3% of it but 80% of that is landfilled [680,000 tonnes].
Speaking to PN about the report, author Steve Hillam said: “One of the options of dealing with flexible packaging waste and to stop it from going to landfill is incineration or recovery, at the moment.
“Despite the small proportion of the municipal waste stream accounted for by flexible packaging, so much of it is landfilled that it demonstrates a real need for new materials and new waste management methods.”
The research stated that a majority of flexible packaging, such as crisp packets are unsuitable for recycling due to food contamination. Inks from crisp and biscuit packets can be difficult to remove.
The study also reveals that the key driver behind the UK’s improved recycling rates is export, with 37% of packaging waste volume now being sent to countries such as India and China. Plastic bags account for around 90% of flexible waste recycling, with 95% [1.6m tonnes] of that going abroad.