Should we use more recycled plastic?

Plastic is bad – at least that’s what we all seem to agree, but is it really?  When we consider how plastics and micro-plastics are polluting our land and oceans, there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable argument for continuing to use them. When you consider the hard wearing features of plastic and the fact that it is going to be around for centuries anyway, perhaps the better question should be: what can we usefully do with the plastic we have already got? 

British Recycled Plastic’s Managing Director Jason Elliott spoke to Sustainability Voices. He said “Plastic pollution is undoubtedly a major environmental concern. Our streets, beaches and oceans are testament to its far-reaching effects, but with more education and major investment we can realise the significant benefits of recycled plastic over other materials, Recycled plastic is inherently tough, it is chemically inert so will never leach any toxic chemicals and will never rot, split or splinter so has a long lifespan, what’s more it is environmentally friendly. We should be viewing plastic as a resource and looking at how we can keep it in the clean recycling loop,”

What happens to the plastic we recycle? 

In the UK, only 45.7% of our overall waste was recycled in 2017. That’s below the EU target of recycling a minimum of 50 percent of household waste by 2020. The majority of materials that are recycled are paper or card, followed by metal and then glass. These materials are recycled in the UK. Two thirds of our plastic waste goes abroad. The BBC suggests that we exported 611,000 tonnes of plastic packaging in 2018. 

Only one third of our plastic is collected for recycling and only 9% is recycled in the UK, according to Green Alliance (PDF). They estimate that if “pull” measures like taxes, incentives for public procurement and standards for recycling work, an estimated two million tonnes of plastic could be recycled. It also means we could meet 71% of the domestic raw material requirements, reducing imports and environmental impact.

“The world is nowhere near where it needs to be in terms of recycling plastic”, says Jason Elliott in Sustainability Mag., “This has nothing to do with the recycling industry and everything to do with the twin problems of the way things are manufactured, shortly to be addressed by EPR or its equivalents, and the lack of education or incentive for users of the final products. Both are global problems.”

New legislation includes the UK Plastic Packaging Tax (April 2022), the Extended Producer Responsibility law (2023) and the Deposit Return Scheme (currently delayed). The tax will fine companies that are not meeting a target for a minimum of 30% recycled plastic.

Playground benches made of recycled plastic by British Recycled Plastic
Playground benches made of recycled plastic by British Recycled Plastic

How does British Recycled Plastic use recycled plastic?

British Recycled Plastic uses 100% recycled plastic as raw material for its products. This is a great example of responsible waste usage. The products are suitable for domestic and commercial use. The hard wearing, hygienic and long lasting properties of plastic make it the ideal material for products in use in public settings. Examples include bollards, walkways, benches, compost and litter bins, etc. They are UV resistant, vandal resistant and require little maintenance. 

British Recycled Plastic are silver patrons of Blue Patch and provide a working example of corporate social responsibility and sustainable material sourcing to other members in the community. To find out more about patronage, visit 

Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.