Recycling Association IWPP Ltd chief executive Simon Ellin from Britain said food packaging waste needed to be better dealt with globally.
Ellin was among the experts who took part in the International Urban Cooperation Asia final stakeholder consultations webinar on “Designing Circular Cities in Malaysia”.
“In UK and Europe, extended producer responsibility is leading to a situation where those who produce the packaging will have to make their packaging recyclable or face additional costs for recycling it or disposing of it,” he said.
Additionally, he said plastics tax was being introduced to ensure a minimum recycled plastic content was used in product packaging.
This, he elaborated, should lead to more investment in recycling infrastructure, awareness campaigns and easier products to recycle.
“Already, we are seeing a great deal of innovation and work towards using a set of core materials that are easy to recycle and have mature recycling technologies behind them,” he said.
Meanwhile, some manufacturers are looking at plastic alternatives. That, in Ellin’s view, is not always a good idea.
“Some are looking at substituting plastic with paper, but paper is easily contaminated by food and paper-based food packaging covered in food waste can also contaminate other paper sources.
“We suggest that the best material should be used for the job and its ease of recycling taken into account too.”
Therefore, he conceded, plastic might be the best option, as long as it was an easily recycled plastic and there were sufficient collection systems in place to return the item for recycling.
“As we are part of a global economy, we also need to create a global circular economy,” said Ellin.
He said countries were rarely self-sufficient, which meant governments bought goods from everywhere in the world.
“In the UK for example, we consume much more cardboard than we produce because many of the goods we buy are manufactured in other parts of the world.
“It is important therefore that we return this cardboard to its place of manufacture to be recycled, and to then protect new products in new recycled cardboard boxes in the most sustainable manner,” he reasoned.
Ellin stressed that it was also essential that any such move was done according to the country’s laws on exporting recycled materials and the laws in the destination country.
In Britain, Recycling Association has developed Traqa, which is a blockchain technology. Blockchain technology is a system to record information securely, also described as a digital ledger of transactions.
This enables stakeholders to securely access the data they need and to track where the material is headed.
Ellin said it also enabled the exporter of the material for recycling to securely share documentation on the material type, inspection data and more with the ports, shipping lines, customs authorities and the mill or recycling facility that was buying the material.
“This means that UK recycling companies are voluntarily sharing data with regulators and customs authorities, with the aim of ensuring we only send a quality commodity to other countries for recycling there.
“We have had a lot of interest from around the world in our blockchain technology, and we are always interested in talking to others who wish to ensure global trade between legitimate recyclers continues under the laws and regulations of the trading nations,” he said.
“Clearly, there will always be a need for food waste recycling because of vegetable peels and inedible animal by-products.
“In the UK, we have seen a huge roll-out of technologies such as anaerobic digestion, often on farms, and this allows local councils to collect food waste for recycling.
“At these anaerobic digestion plants, the food waste is turned into either electricity or gas for the grid and fertiliser for the land.
“So, it is the waste from packing food that we need to address soon,” Ellin reiterated.
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