Plastic bottle recycling rates

Our Blog discusses the current UK plastic bottle recycling rate and poses questions regarding the viability of recycling plastic pots, tubs and trays in order to achieve stretching plastic packaging recycling targets.

Research recently carried out by Valpak suggests that consumer plastic bottle recycling rates in the UK could be higher than previously believed, due to a lower than anticipated quantity of plastic used in bottles in the last five to seven years.


Whilst plastic bottle recycling rates have been growing, the weight of all the plastic bottles bought by consumers in the UK, such as soft drinks, has remained steady. This is most likely due to the light-weighting of plastic bottles counter balancing growth in sales of soft drinks and other plastic bottled products.


Whilst it is positive that we are potentially recycling more plastic bottles than we thought, a higher recycling rate implies there could be fewer ‘untapped’ plastic bottles remaining in the waste stream. This could make achieving the stretching plastic packaging recycling targets set by government even harder and highlights the importance of growing collections of other types of plastic packaging, such as PTTs (pots, tubs & trays) and the end markets for such materials.


Do you believe there are or could be sufficient end markets for PTTs in the UK or abroad? Should the UK double or triple the quantity of PTTs collected? With China showing little interest in the material and the UK having limited reprocessing or end uses for it, will we wind up with a spectacular plastic packaging mountain rather than recycling rate? If so, how can we prevent this from happening?


This research was undertaken by Valpak and WRAP to support the UK meeting the 2017 plastic packaging recycling targets and is published in three reports:

  • Plastic Packaging Composition 2011 – provides a comprehensive picture of the composition (format and polymer) of plastic packaging flowing onto the UK market in 2011
  • PlasFlow 2017– maps the flow of plastic packaging from consumption through to end markets in order to develop a number of possible compliance scenarios for meeting the plastic packaging target in 2017; and
  • PlasFlow Carbon – an assessment of the carbon footprint in alternative scenarios to meet the 2017 plastic packaging target, using the data and modelling framework developed in PlasFlow 2017


All three of these reports are now available from this website and are already being used by the plastics industry and government to support increased plastics recycling.