400 industry experts gathered for the annual RECOUP conference on September 30, where climate change, net-zero aspirations and the need for collaboration dominated discussions.
The Peterborough-based charity RECOUP brought brands, retailers, recyclers, local authorities and waste management companies together for the first time in two years to discuss climate change, net-zero aspirations in relation to plastics recycling, and the need for collaboration among organisations. The unique event at KingsGate Conference Centre saw people attend in-person and online via a livestream.
Tom Heap, TV presenter and host of Radio 4’s Costing the Earth, was delighted to return once again to moderate the morning discussions and commented: “The virtues and values of plastics have really come to the fore over the last 18 months, in helping protect us from the spread of the virus.”
Heap added that the day’s discussions seemed to “incorporate the science of plastics materials, facts and fiction, good and bad and what’s changing in the chemical and design of plastics production and the impact on the wider environment.”
Paula Chinn of WWF UK threw down the gauntlet to the industry, with a reminder of the quote from Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF-UK: “We’re the first generation to know we’re destroying the planet and could be the last to do anything about it.”
Chinn called on the industry to “face the fact that 90% of global biodiversity loss and water stress, and half of all carbon emissions come from resource extraction and processing (UNEP)… Plastic packaging contributes 4% to this total but is the frontline, a visible touchpoint for many consumers.”
Chinn continued: “Capital investments constrain us, but we have to make changes to systems to think of elimination, consumption reduction and reuse. Collaboration is critical to support citizens to consume less.”
Collaboration was a huge theme this year. Working together to find solutions will be critical to meet the challenging government targets. The piece from Mike Baxter, Corporate Affairs Director at Berry BPI, really resonated around the room, calling on local authorities to work to find a solution to incorporate films and flexible wrappings into their household kerbside collections.
Baxter led the charge, calling for the industry to recognise that change can only happen at the pace required by working together. He called on local authorities to “be positive and say we don’t want to push back the collection of films and flexibles; we want to start working on it now! Retailers and brands are showing it can be collected, and it can be recycled.”
Collaboration and exploring new ways of working are proof that changes can be made. Exeter Council received praise for its commitment to helping collect plastic films and created a closed-loop collection scheme collaboration with JayPlas International. Sainsbury’s has also rolled out a collection of films to over 600 stores. Innovative recycling solutions can be found when organisations work together.
RECOUP is proud to be playing a part in facilitating discussions to drive change forward. RECOUP brings together sectors of the industry and works closely with local authorities on citizen engagement and education programmes using the Pledge2Recycle Plastics brand.
For more information about RECOUP and the work it does, visit www.recoup.org.