CPI worried that recycling stats for paper and board have been misleading

The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) is aware that the third edition of the Resources and Waste Strategy Monitoring Progress report published by Defra in November 2022 led to misleading coverage about the recycling rate of paper and cardboard packaging products.

The report stated that, although recycling rates for most packaging material categories increased in the last 10 years, reduced levels of paper and card recycling flatlined the overall UK packaging recycling rate, which increased only by 2% (from 61% in 2012 to 63% in 2021). Background data indicated that, since 2012, the level of waste arising for paper and cardboard placed on the market has grown significantly, however, the amount treated has not increased. As paper and cardboard represent the most common material category for packaging, the report concluded that reduced levels of paper and cardboard recycling counteracted the rise in recycling for all other material categories.

In response to these statements, the CPI held discussions with Defra officials, which concluded that the overall recycling rate for paper and cardboard reported in the publication does not reflect the actual tonnages being recycled. Changes in the methodology estimating waste arisings between 2012/13 and 2014 resulted in misleading tonnages reported for paper and cardboard. The way tonnages for waste arisings were calculated pre-2014 caused volatility in the data presented, which consequently reduced the degree of confidence for any trends identified in the report.

Andrew Large, Director General, Confederation of Paper Industries, said, “Statistical anomalies for waste arising reported pre-2014 led to claims that the recycling rate for paper and cardboard packaging products declined by fifteen percentage points in the last decade. This is not correct. With a recycling rate of almost 70%, one of the highest recycling rates in the UK, and with around 80% of UK-made paper utilising recovered paper, paper and cardboard packaging products are the most sustainable choice. We are pleased Defra engaged with CPI to develop a common view on recycling rates which, in turn, will lead to the revision of the commentary in the report in relation to recycling rates for paper and cardboard.”

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