The export of huge amounts of British plastics packaging waste to Asia, particularly China, is worsening a shortage of polyethylene scrap available for U.K. recyclers.
Unlike other European Union members, Britain allows exported plastic scrap, as well as material reprocessed nationally, to count toward its quota under the EU's Packaging Waste Directive legislation. As a result, U.K. recyclers are having a hard time competing for a share of the recycling stream.
In January, British Polythene Industries plc, Europe's top PE film producer and a leading waste recycler in Britain, closed plants in England and Scotland and stopped making some products that rely on recycled feedstock.
Greenock, Scotland-based BPI cut almost 30 jobs with the closing of its Stockton on Tees, England, plant. That facility made plastic sacks using recycled content. A BPI film recycling facility in Greenock with 21 employees closed in February.
``Our number of accredited recycling sites has been reduced from seven [in 1998] to only three now,'' BPI Chairman Cameron McLatchie said in his annual review for 2006.
``This is distinctly unfavorable when compared with schemes operating in other countries within the [European Community], which have been devised to promote the recycling of scrap locally,'' he said. Systems elsewhere have led to a ``thriving'' recycling sector in Europe.
McLatchie pointed out how the picture has changed in recent years. In 2001, U.K. recyclers handled around three-quarters of Britain's plastics waste. Last year, more than two-thirds of the waste was exported to Asia.
``The United Kingdom government would do well to re-examine the U.K. system and modify it to promote increased recycling of waste within the U.K.,'' he said.
Meanwhile, BPI also has closed a plant in Scunthorpe, England, cutting nearly 40 jobs. The plant made film for produce and deep-freeze packaging. Only last year, the site added an advanced, three-layer coextrusion line. At the time, BPI said the machine was essential to meet increasing demand.
Company officials declined comment.