Now is the time to grasp opportunities to improve plastic recycling across the North

Professor Michael Shaver, Director of the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub and Sustainable Futures, part of the University of Manchester, has published an open letter calling on Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham following visit to grasp opportunities to improve plastic recycling across the North. 

The letter urges the Mayor to build on the city region’s history of transforming its waste management system following the significant upcoming changes to waste policy on the horizon, by creating additional capacity in the region to mechanically recycle plastics. 

Over recent years the recycling rate in Greater Manchester has plateaued to just under 50% overall. The limitation of recycling only bottle-shaped plastics means the combined authority has fallen behind other areas – by comparison over 87% of UK local authorities collect pots, trays and tubs in addition to bottles. 

On a recent visit to the Sustainable Materials Innovation Hub, in the Royce Hub Building at the University of Manchester, the Mayor heard about the various projects that the research group are involved in related to plastics and sustainability, including One Bin to Rule them All, which piqued his interest on the perennial issue. The multi-year One Bin project looks to understand recycling behaviours, and demonstrate a viable system to eliminate plastic release in the environment by identifying and creating value in plastic packaging waste streams, whilst simplifying recycling for consumers. 

Prof. Michael Shaver said: 

“From our insights and experience, we believe there are significant opportunities for Greater Manchester to lead the country in creating local additional capacity to sort and mechanically recycle a wide range of plastic packaging materials in a more integrated manner.” 

“We commonly hear that there are no viable markets for recycled plastics such as pots, trays and tubs or flexibles that are not currently kerbside collected in Greater Manchester, but believe this is no longer the case.” 

“The challenge is capacity, with the lack of local mechanical recycling infrastructure necessitating long transportation distances that increase cost and carbon footprint.” 

He has volunteered to lead a task and finish group within the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Sustainable Consumption and Production Challenge Group in this area and hopes to cover both the technical and wider systemic solutions needed. 

Read the letter

Further Information 

Adam Peirce
External Liaison Officer

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