UK-based organisation the Natural Source Waters Association (NSWA) has urged an end to the term ‘single-use’ in relation to plastic bottles, arguing that the term is causing harm to recycling efforts. This follows research by the organisation which revealed that 30% of UK consumers did not know that plastic bottles are recyclable.

The NSWA claims that confusion over the term ‘single-use’ leads to plastic being demonised by consumers and them choosing alternatives that could create new environmental problems. The organisation reported that 46% of those questioned in the research thought all ‘single-use’ plastics are sent to landfill or for incineration, such as is the case with balloons, cotton buds, and straws.

An NSWA spokesperson told Packaging Gateway: “The term ‘single-use’ was the main thing that we looked at and what people understood that to mean. Confusion comes from the fact that that term brings together items like stirrers and straws and cotton buds, which are not recyclable. We would prefer the term ‘recyclable plastics’ because it’s then really clear what you should do with them and that way will end up in the right place.”

NSWA circularity director Bryan McCluskey said: “If we’re really going to improve recycling rates, we need to use clear, positive language. The term ‘single-use plastic’ is not helping people to do the right thing with their plastic bottles. Our members want to use recycled content and to meet this demand we need people to recycle their drink bottles. We are working with the Scottish and UK Governments on the introduction of Deposit Return Systems (DRS).”

The NSWA spokesperson told Packaging Gateway: “We are working very closely with the Scottish Government in their implementation advisory group to explore what the DRS will look like because Scotland are a lot further along the road than the rest of the United Kingdom. That is our primary focus at the moment. The Scottish government have their timeline and are looking to implement the DRS in 2021 if everything goes to plan.”

Most drink bottles are made using the plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is fully recyclable. England’s national recycling campaign Recycle Now states on its website that all types of plastic bottle can be recycled with the exception of anything containing chemicals, such as antifreeze.

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The NSWA spokesperson added: “We all have a responsibility in promoting awareness. Everyone should be clear in their language. The more we use the same language, the more people are going to understand and avoid confusion. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility.”