Cornwall to adopt closed-loop recycling system for used drinks packaging

15 January 2018 (Last Updated January 15th, 2018 13:51)

The British South-West county of Cornwall has approved the launch of a new circular recycling system that will aim to consistently reduce the waste of drinks containers and boost recycling rates throughout the area.

Cornwall to adopt closed-loop recycling system for used drinks packaging
Research shows the UK throws away 2.5 billion paper cups every year. Credit: TEDxTruro

The British South-West county of Cornwall has approved the launch of a new circular recycling system that will aim to consistently reduce the waste of drinks containers and boost recycling rates throughout the area.

The initiative is the result of the partnership between circular economy practitioners Closed Loop Environmental Solutions, Cornish product designers and manufacturers, ashortwalk, and is supported by Circular Cornwall and the new Global Centre for Circular Economy at the University of Exeter, Falmouth.

The project features the introduction of ‘Beverage Bins’ where consumers can dispose of all types of single-use drinks containers, including paper and plastic cups, cans, cartons, plastic bottles, lids and straws.

Such Beverage Bins will be situated in strategic ‘on-the-go environments’ across Cornish centres, such as high streets, beaches and transport hubs, and will be monitored for three months before being officially approved.

Peter Goodwin, Director of Closed Loop, said: “In consultation with food and drinks brands and the packaging industry over the last six months, there is now a broad acceptance that more needs to be done, with dialogue quickly progressing to practical solutions that address the issues of packaging waste.

“The Beverage Bin Project is the direct outcome from these discussions for which we now hope to raise the required funding to make happen – particularly at a time when the consumer is more willing than ever to participate.”

Concerns over the growing amount of plastic waste in the UK have recently led the British Government to propose a 25p ‘latte levy’ on plastic cups and to come up with a 25-year Environment Plan to minimise packaging waste.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Theresa May declared that she intends to eliminate all plastic waste from the country by 2042, triggering several positive reactions throughout the UK.

The Scottish government, for example, is planning to introduce a ban on the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds that could cut the country’s marine plastic pollution by half.

The project would make Scotland the first UK country to impose a ban on the product. Scottish environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham commented: “Scotland’s sewerage infrastructure collects and treats some 945m litres of waste water each day. These systems are not designed to remove small plastic items such as plastic buds, which can kill marine animals and birds that swallow them.”

Further action has been taken in Wales, where the small town of Aberporth has begun to decrease the consumption of single-use plastic containers by phasing out straws and favouring wooden clothes pegs and glass milk bottles in local stores.

On Friday, UK supermarket giant Tesco also declared to be in favour of adopting a deposit and return scheme. While also planning to make all their packaging fully recyclable or compostable by 2025, Tesco became the first retailer to weigh in on the environmental debate – with other supermarkets quickly following its example.

The proposed plan, which came into effect on 1 January 2018, is meant to boost the recycling procedures through the introduction of ‘bring banks’ – similar to the Beverage Bins – in order to facilitate a circular system.

If successful, Cornwall’s initiative could be extended to the rest of the UK. Matthew Thomson, Chief Executive of Fifteen Cornwall and the Cornwall Food Foundation and the Co-Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Nature Partnership, commented: “All of Cornwall’s waste is currently shipped to other parts of the UK so we desperately need a radical new solution that not only attracts the support of consumers but leaves a lasting recycling legacy for the county.

“If this trial works in Cornwall, it can work anywhere”.