Published 09 April 2020
Food and medicine packaging could be affected as local authorities suspend recycling collections because of the coronavirus pandemic.
A national cardboard shortage may soon hit the UK, warns the Recycling Association, the industry body that represents organisations from the collection and processing sector. In many parts of the country, local councils are suspending their regular recycling collections in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Due to staff shortages and increased volumes of rubbish as people are shut inside their homes, authorities are struggling to cope and so are scaling back their refuse collection services.
Without recovered paper and cardboard, manufacturers are facing a shortage of recycled fibres which are used to make millions of cardboard boxes essential for takeaway cartons and medicine packages.
Simon Ellin, chief executive of the TRA, said: “Of huge concern to us is the signs that Europe is already becoming short of fibre with which to make cardboard boxes. Food and medical supplies all move by cardboard box, and if we can’t make cardboard boxes, everything stops. If councils stop collecting recycling, and many are, all this fibre is burnt or goes to landfill, and we will be short.”
The current lockdown in the UK has seen a sharp rise in the number of home delivery and take away services. With no recycling collections, the rubbish ends up in household bins and will either be incinerated or thrown into landfill at a later date. Following the closure of recycling centres and municipal refuse tips, there are also reports of an increase in backyard burning of domestic waste, which is illegal.
The fibre shortage is further exacerbated by the closure of major high street retailers such as John Lewis, McDonald’s, Argos and B&Q as the government ordered non-essential businesses to temporarily shut their doors. All are valuable sources of recycled materials.