Published: 06:00, 04 March 2020
| Updated: 08:25, 04 March 2020
A packaging giant has called on councils to introduce separate card and paper recycling after 4.8 million bin bags of rogue plastic were filled last year.
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DS Smith's paper-making plant at Kemsley, near Sittingbourne, has now been forced to fit special technology to sift out plastic.
Jochen Behr, the company's head of recycling, said: "We have argued for many years about the importance of quality material for recycling and the importance of separate collections to ensure paper and cardboard can be easily recycled.
"Introducing state-of-the-art monitoring equipment at our mill has allowed us to be forensic about the quality of material we process in the UK.
"It is important only the right materials end up at the right recycling facility."
The firm's eight-step process includes "near infrared" equipment to let the company identify the worst offenders to encourage them to improve segregation and collection methods.
Mr Behr said: "Our new data highlights the scale of the problem of plastics contaminating paper recycling streams.
"Paper and card are more likely to be contaminated by plastics when it comes from mixed recycling collections where materials such as glass, cans, paper, and plastics are collected together, as opposed to segregated collections.
"As such, the company is calling for more local authorities to adopt collections where these materials are separated."
The company's Tipping Point report predicts the UK's target of recycling 65% of waste by 2035 is more than 10 years behind schedule and calls for policy-makers to introduce mandatory separate collections of card and paper to improve the quality of material collected for recycling.
DS Smith says it is working with retailers, supermarkets, collection agencies, and councils to improve quality.
In Swale, paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, food containers such as margarine tubs and yoghurt pots, glass bottles and jars, aluminium foil, and aerosol spray cans, are all collected together in blue recycling bins.