RECOUP calls for interventions to increase transparency of marine plastic programmes

Plastics resource efficiency and recycling charity, RECOUP, has released its new River and Ocean Plastics Collection and Recycling Programmes Report. This report, available to RECOUP members, found that inconsistency and ambiguity in language and operations, risk undermining programme efforts to achieve the best results in removing plastic waste from marine environments.

The report analysed 30 global marine programmes, including a mixture of collection schemes, technical innovators, and those that manufacture equipment and provide software to collect material and store data.

Tom McBeth, Policy & Infrastructure Projects Manager at RECOUP comments: “Findings from the report showed significant variation across the programmes we analysed, ranging from differences in definitions and language used, materials targeted, environments collected from, and the transparency around the process and end destination of the material.”

On the consistency of language used to describe the material captured by these programmes, Tom added: “Inconsistency of language is a concern, with some programmes using wording around ‘ocean bound plastic’ to mean material ‘likely to enter waterways within 50km of open water’.  This would mean that water entering any river in the UK would meet such a definition.”

As interest in the sector grows, packaging producers are increasingly seeking ways to incorporate recycled plastics, and those collected from the natural environment, into new packaging and products.  It is therefore vital that standards are in place to ensure consistent, evidence-based results.

In order for marine programmes and their supporters to have the best opportunities to do this and achieve the best environmental outcomes, RECOUP has developed five key interventions that would increase the transparency and reduce confusion around marine programmes and their operations:

  1. Widely understood definitions relating to marine programmes are implemented.
  2. Creditable auditing takes place of the programmes and the material they collect.
  3. Programmes comply with international legislation.
  4. Programmes fully disclose information about the collection and management of material.
  5. More research and development of the technological requirements and infrastructure needed to recycle collected material effectively.

The River and Ocean Plastics Collection and Recycling Programmes report is available to RECOUP members to download from its website.