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Archive for March, 2011

Italian bag ban snubs EU

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Following the Italian government’s decision to introduce a nationwide plastic bag ban from 1 January this year – without notifying the European Commission – Brussels’ pen-pushers are threatening to assess whether an EU-wide ban is a feasible or good idea.

According to Monica Westeren, a spokesperson for the Commission’s Environment Directorate General, “There’s a willingness to look into the issue”. She said the Commission could launch either a detailed feasibility study or a more general report on whether such a ban on plastic bags was appropriate.

She stated that the Italians’ banning action was a breach of the EU’s packaging and waste directive, as well – probably – as the EU internal market rules, which ban restrictions of movements of goods and services between member states without consulting Brussels. “You can’t just introduce a measure like that without talking to the Commission. We have made it clear that we expect them to make a formal notification,” she concluded.

One of the options would be a European ban on non-biodegradable bags but even this measure is likely to spark a fierce debate and vehement opposition from the plastics industry.

First UK recycling plant for mixed plastics opens

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Biffa Polymers has opened the country’s first fully integrated sorting and recycling facility for mixed plastic packaging in Redcar, Middlesbrough. Brought about with help of a 1.2 million grant from the government-backed WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), the new plant will create 28 jobs in the local area. The facility will begin the processing of 15,000 tonnes of mixed plastics per year from next month, ramping up to its full 20,000 tonnes per annum capacity after the first year.

The plant will process plastics from Biffa’s material recycling facilities, in addition to waste from local authorities and commercial clients in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

After sorting by polymer type and colour, the plastics are processed to produce a high-quality output that is suitable for a broad range of applications. A proportion of the plant’s output will be processed through Biffa’s food-grade HDPE recycling facility – located on the same site – and be used in the manufacture of new milk cartons. Biffa Polymers was the first company in the UK to produce food-grade recycled HDPE plastic.

This move is just one of a number of recent initiatives that are helping to make plastic packaging – including plastic carrier bags – a more sustainable option.

Call for Wales to scrap its bag tax

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Following the recent research by the Environment Agency into supermarket bags, which found that a cotton shopping bag has to be re-used over 130 times to have less environmental impact than a single-use plastic carrier, the packaging industry is stepping up its efforts to persuade the Welsh Assembly to abandon its plans for a carrier bag tax, planned for October.

The new tax, which could see shops charging as much as 15p for a bag, has been attacked in a joint open letter to Jane Davidson, Welsh Environment Minister, from Barry Turner, Chief Executive of the Packaging and Films Association, and Paul Marmot, Chairman of the Carrier Bag Consortium. They argue that the minister had given them an undertaking to review the planned tax if the EA’s research proved that lightweight bags had a lower environmental impact compared with heavier carriers.

Barry Turner said: “We are now calling on Jane Davidson to honour her word and abandon the bag tax in Wales. This would be a brave move but it would show that the Welsh Assembly, like the Scottish Parliament before it, respects science over spin.”

Paul Marmot added: “This is what we have been telling the Welsh Environment Minister for years and yet she has forced this tax on the people of Wales. If it goes ahead, Wales will suffer higher environmental damage not less. These are the unintended consequences which her counterparts in Westminster and Scotland acknowledged a long time ago.”

Mr Turner went on to say: “By encouraging consumers to reuse carrier bags, consumption has dropped by around 50% in Wales – up to 70% in some cases. People are now encouraged to recycle unwanted bags at front of store with around 5,000 collection points now available across the UK and retailers have revised their bag specifications to ensure minimal resources are used. There has also been an increase of 40% in the amount of recycled plastic being used in bags. All this has been achieved without Government intervention and all within the waste framework directive – according to the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle.”

Waste plastic as a fuel source

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Foster Wheeler – the engineering organisation with significant expertise in the oil, gas and refining industries – has been awarded a contract by Cynar PLC to provide basic process engineering design services for a new plant that will convert non-recyclable waste plastics into liquid fuels – primarily diesel.

Cynar already has one plant operational in Portloaise, County Laoise, Eire. Its unique technology converts mixed waste plastics into low-sulphur hydrocarbon fuels through a process of liquefaction, pyrolysis and distillation. The process can handle most of the waste plastics that are currently sent to landfill or incinerated and Cynar plans to establish up to such 30 plants across the UK and Ireland. Each plant can process up to 20 tonnes of waste plastics per day, producing up to 19,000 litres of fuel products at a conversion rate of 95%.

Commented Michael Murray, CEO of Cynar, “Cynar chose Foster Wheeler to assist with our technology development because of its wide ranging engineering expertise and in particular its oil refining knowledge and capability. Currently all end-of-life plastic ends up in landfill and Cynar’s technology can go some way to reducing this ever increasing problem whilst providing an alternative to fossil fuel.”