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‘Flex Collect’ Recycling Trial Announced by Somerset Council

Somerset Council has announced a recycling trial of kerbside collections for soft plastics including plastic bags and wrapping. This will be for invitees only.

After the success of ‘Recycle More’ collections, Somerset Council has successfully become part of a national ‘FlexCollect’ trial of kerbside collections of soft plastics. The trial will be available by invitation only, to around 3,600 homes across two locations in Frome, starting at the end of May. The pilot collections will pick-up a wide range of plastic bags and wrapping, including carrier bags, bread bags, confectionary wrappers, crisp packets, food wrapping and cling film. They will be part of the usual weekly recycling collections, to be put out for collection in plastic sacks provided to participating households.

What is ‘Recycle More’?

‘Recycle More’ launched across Sedgemoor and West Somerset, early last month. The aim was to make it easier for an increasing number of people to recycle. It included recycling containers for every household, kerbside collection for plastic, rubbish collected less as more recycling equates less waste, and recycling expansions for properties with communal collections such as flats.

The introduction of ‘Recycle More’ collections has helped push Somerset’s recycling rate to its highest rate ever at 56.2%.

What is ‘FlexCollect’?

‘FlexCollect’ is a project which collects and recycles flexible plastic packaging from households. It currently involves nine local authorities across England. It aims to inform government and industry on how plastic bags and wrapping should be added to existing household collection services. It is part of a larger £2.9m Flexible Plastic Fund which was established in May 2021 by five founding partners: Mars UK, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.

The project benefits from the cross-industry expertise of leading retailers and industry and government partners, including the Department for Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Ecosurety, UK Research and Innovation Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge (UKRI SSPP), SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, RECOUP, LARAC, WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland.

The aim is to reduce plastic pollution by giving the material a stable value. This will in turn increase the supply of recycled plastic for the industry to become more ‘circular’. This will motivate investment in much needed jobs and infrastructure to make flexible plastic recycling a financially sustainable system in the UK. Through supporting the Flexible Plastic Fund, partners will contribute to system-wide progress driving towards household collection of this valuable material and ultimately closing the loop on flexible plastic production.

Somerset Council’s commitments

Somerset Council asserts that it seeks to be a greener, more sustainable county and is excited about participating in this national trial which aims to establish the best way of collecting these materials and help develop the UK’s capacity to reprocess soft plastics. This is crucial as currently, plastic bags and wrapping remain a difficult material to recycle. They are low quality, made of many different plastic types and there is a lack of reprocessing capacity in the UK. In 2020, they represented 22% of all UK consumer plastic packaging but only 8% was recycled.

At the moment, the only way to recycle plastic bags and wrapping is at supermarket front of store collection points but, this trial will change that by making recycling plastic bags and wrapping more convenient for everyone.

Councillor Sarah Dyke, Lead Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “This is an exciting project to be part of…our recycling rate has never been higher, but Somerset wants to do more which is why we made sure we are involved at this early stage”.

Depending on how the trials progress, it is expected that they will be expanded to more Somerset homes next year.

Final thought

Recycling is important for the protection of natural resources, reducing waste, and energy conservation. This project appears to have a range of potential benefits, especially as plastic is both difficult to recycle and extremely detrimental to the environment.

There are also economic benefits to recycling as this can create sustainable jobs which stimulate long-term financial prosperity. It also saves money by reducing the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of in landfills.

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