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Multidimensional Value Metrics for Assessing England's Plastic Packaging System and Monitoring Associated Targets - EV0301

This report, produced by an interdisciplinary team at Brunel University London and the University of Leeds in collaboration with Defra, analyses the plastic packaging system in England and identifies new metrics that can be used for monitoring and assessing progress in meeting targets linked to plastic packaging set by the Government. It does so by employing a new multidimensional systems based approach termed ‘Complex Value Optimisation for Resource Recovery’ (CVORR) that supports understanding of how the various policy interventions, current and planned, need to be coordinated to deliver the desired outcomes.

(Section 1) Analysis of the Plastic Packaging System in England

This part of the report analyses the structures, processes, commercial opportunities and constraints that make up the current UK system for the management of plastic packaging waste. The analytical scope is restricted to the plastic packaging collected by local authorities (LAs) in England, known as local authority collected municipal waste (LACMW). The focus is on positive and negative impacts created, destroyed and distributed in the plastic packaging system in the four domains of value; environmental, economic, social and technical.

(Section 2) Identification of New Metrics for Assessing and Monitoring Government Targets

Drawing on the analysis from section 1, the aim of this part of the report is to identify metrics that would be suitable as potential means to gain insights into the business-as-usual situation in relation to desirable goals; as measures of progress towards the achievement of current and future policies (assessment); and as means to track the progress of new policy measures and process changes in England in the long-term new initiatives (monitoring). Following a process of metric selection through an expert stakeholder workshop, four metrics are proposed:

• Reprocessing efficiency (linked to the environmental domain of value) - measures the proportion of plastic material that is reprocessed into secondary material within the UK
• Per cent losses for sorting facilities (technical domain) - measures the losses and rejections of plastic packaging waste sent to sorting facilities (i.e. MRFs and PRFs)
• Cost efficiency (economic domain) - measures the cost that can be avoided and/or the revenue that can be captured at an increased recycling rate
• Inequality (social domain) - measures the allocation of costs (and incomes) produced by the recycling process in the overall system, in order to identify the misalignment between cost-bearing (e.g. government) and revenue allocation activities

The use of the CVORR approach within this research highlights that an understanding of the processes, stakeholders and complex value involved in the plastic packaging system aids in identifying ways to better connect the downstream with the upstream part of that system. Through having metrics that focus on all four domains of value, there is greater likelihood of bringing about systemic change while avoiding problem shifting elsewhere in the system. The authors conclude that assessing and improving the plastic packaging system as a whole across the political, economic, social, environmental and technical domains of value, is the only viable pathway to achieving desired sustainability goals linked to plastic packaging.

Funding Declaration: This report was produced independently, and part funded by an Economic and Social Research Council Business Boost Impact Acceleration Award.
Objectives of the report:

1. To analyse the plastic packaging system in England. The report uses a new multidimensional systems approach termed ‘Complex Value Optimisation for Resource Recovery’ to uncover critical interrelationships between different parts of the plastic packaging system, and identify positive and negative changes in environmental, economic, social and technical value.

2. To identify and/or develop new metrics for assessing and monitoring government targets linked to plastic packaging. The report aims to identify suitable metrics for tracking progress of new policy measures intended to drive improvements in the plastic packaging system.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Plastic packaging - how do we get to where we want to be   (3092k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2018

To: 2019

Contractor / Funded Organisations