Green Alliance published a report highlighting that recycling can provide 71% of the raw material demand from UK manufacturers of plastic packaging and products.
The report was prepared for business group the Circular Economy Task Force and argues that the UK exports around 66% of plastic collected for recycling, with the domestic recycling rate currently at 9%.
It recommended the creation of secondary material markets to enable recycling of an additional two million tonnes of plastic in the country.
Green Alliance noted that the government policies focused on recycling targets alone have resulted in materials being pushed into the waste management system, as well as over-dependence on virgin materials.
It proposed some measures to complement recycling targets, improve the recovery rate of plastic recovered in the UK and bring them back into manufacturing in the form of raw material.
The recommendations include creating mandatory recycled content requirements for all plastic products and packaging, and short-term support to enable the formation of a plastic reprocessing market.
Green Alliance resources senior policy adviser Libby Peake said: “If the UK wants to lead the world in addressing the global scourge of plastic pollution, that means creating a circular economy at home that allows us to turn discarded plastics back into new products. Just collecting plastic and shipping it abroad doesn’t solve the problem.”
The report has also called on the government to frame new policies to ensure a reliable market and provide certainty for investors.
Circular Economy Task Force chairperson Dr Colin Church said: “There are currently some significant failures, in resource terms, in the way plastics are used and managed at the end of life stage. Tackling this will require action from all of us – designers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers and resource managers.
“The resource and waste management sector is more than ready to play its part, but it cannot act alone. It needs the right policy framework and the right partnerships to allow it to bring its skills, energy and imagination to bear.”