“Recycling Plastics Doesn’t Work”, Boris Johnson, 2021

Posted on: 16 Nov 2021

Ahead of the anticipated COP26, this year’s UN Climate Change Conference. Boris Johnson attended a press conference with WWF UK Chief Executive Tanya Steele and attended by an audience of 8–12 year olds. At the press conference Boris Johnson said “recycling plastics doesn’t work.”

Such a controversial statement has garnered both praise and criticism.

To clarify, the Prime Minister was referring to threats to global oceans and marine wildlife as well as conserving energy. Instead, he was quoted as saying “we’ve all got to cut down our use of plastic”. While this last statement may be true, and reducing our single use plastic consumption is important, it is far too simplistic to say simply that recycling does not work.

Recycling of plastics has come on immeasurably in the last few years, with investment in technology and machinery playing a large part in creating a closed loop model, whereby plastics can be recycled many times. There are still plans in place and indeed it is Government policy, to encourage the increase in recycling across England, with a priority placed on the prevention of ‘virgin’ plastic from precious resources, a crucial tool in combatting climate change.

Simon Ellin, CEO of the Recycling Association says Boris Johnson has “lost the plastic plot” in light of the press conference, noting “his own Government has just invested in the Resources and Waste Strategy, which is the most ground-breaking recycling legislation and plan that we’ve ever seen, with recycling right at the front of it.”

At McGrath Bros. (Waste Control) Ltd, we are experts in reusing and recycling. Recycling plastic into end applications that displaces ‘virgin’ plastics can save on average two tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of plastic recycled. We believe it is vital that the importance of recycling all valuable streams of waste plastics is recognised across construction, manufacturing and retail sectors as a key way to save costs and reduce an organisation’s environmental impacts. We have implemented strict processes for all plastic waste we receive at our MRF, starting with both manual and mechanical segregation and followed by decontamination. Often our plastics go on to be recycled into drainage pipes, ducting, flooring, kerbstones, new plastic bags, plastic containers/packaging or pelletised feedstock for example.

Tara Donaghy, Business Director at McGrath Bros. (Waste Control) Ltd says, “Mr Johnson’s remarks are far too simplistic on what is a complex matter and gives a negative portrayal of the recycling industry as a whole. As is often the case, the full picture tells a different story and it is true, as later confirmed by a Number 10 spokesperson, there is definitely still a high demand for plastic recycling in the battle to combat the climate crisis.”