Oil refinery. Non mechanical recycling process

The role of non-mechanical recycling

Redesigning the plastics system - the role of non-mechanical recycling

A circular economy for plastics

Urgent action is required globally to reduce the impact of plastic packaging on our natural environment. In the UK we are redesigning the plastics system to reduce the climate impact of plastic by stopping plastic waste, and the harmful emissions of new plastic production, keeping the material in the economy and out of the environment. Non-mechanical recycling will play a pivotal role in redesigning the plastics system in the UK.

Seizing the opportunity

Non-mechanical recycling has the potential to significantly increase the UK’s recycling rates, enable recycled content to be used back in packaging and divert valuable resources from landfill and incineration. Working alongside traditional mechanical recycling, it will have a big impact towards the redesign of our plastics system in the UK and our vision of a circular economy for plastics.

The opportunity: 

  1. Provide a route to increasing the percentage of plastic being effectively recycled.
  2. Complement advances in mechanical recycling.
  3. Generate a versatile feedstock of the same quality as virgin material for food grade and other high specification applications that lower the dependency on virgin plastics.  
  4. It will avoid greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that occur in virgin resin production and from the incineration of plastic waste. 
Redesigning the plastics system - the role of non-mechanical recycling

Redesigning the plastics system

The role of non-mechanical recycling

Read more about the opportunities
Redesigning our plastics system – the case for non-mechanical recycling

The pivotal role non-mechanical recycling has to play in a circular economy for plastics

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What needs to happen next?

We have some simple asks of industry and government:

Mass balance accountancy included as an allowable allocation method within the Plastics Packaging Tax.
Non-mechanical recycling given the same legal status as recycling and not be bound by the same rules as incineration.
Appropriate feedstock to be made available, through consistent kerbside collections.
Further, independent work to effectively demonstrate that non-mechanical processes are the environmentally preferred option over the alternatives (such as incineration/Energy from Waste) and the production of virgin plastic.
The use of outputs within low-hydrogen fuel alternatives to be strongly discouraged to keep material within the supply chain.

Discussion panel on non-mechanical recycling

In partnership with the NICER programme, WRAP's Adam Herriott chaired a panel discussion with Thomas Baker from WRAP, Bing Xu from Heriot-Watt University – CircularChem, Geoff Brighty from RenewELP and Paul Davidson from UKRI.