Resource Use

Final two authorities join flexible plastic collection scheme

North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) and Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) are the last two local authorities to join the FlexCollect flexible plastic collection project.

FlexCollect flexible plastics collectionNWLDC started its collections on 11 March, with fortnightly collections of flexible plastic bags, sachets, packets, and wrapping from 6,500 households. BFC started collections from 10,000 households on 18 March.

The two final local authorities bring the total number involved in the trial to nine - either source segregated or twin stream - with 46,000 UK households now participating, all of which are provided with collection bags to put their plastic packaging into. This number is set to rise in the summer, when the pilot will expand to cover additional households.

Gareth Morton, FPF representative and Discovery Manager at Ecosurety commented: “It’s great to complete our intended quota of pilots which will give us unparalleled insights into the collection of post-consumer flexible plastic packaging across different areas, service types and socio-demographics. The next stage is to scale up collections and ramp up recycling trials and the end market exploration work.”

The initiative comes against the backdrop of Defra’s announcement of Simpler Recycling and its ambition to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) from 2025, and to make kerbside collection of flexible plastic packaging mandatory by March 2027.

The FPF FlexCollect project

The FPF FlexCollect project launched in May 2022, as an ‘extensive pilot for household collection and recycling of flexible packaging’ in the UK, seeking to understand how to incorporate flexibles into existing collection services across different geographies and demographics.

A £3 million, three-year project, FPF FlexCollect is co-funded by the Flexible Plastic Fund, Defra, UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge (SSPP), RECOUP and Zero Waste Scotland. The nine participating councils are doing so voluntarily, each receiving financial support to roll out and operate kerbside collections.

The initial ‘Pioneer Stage’ launched in October 2022, with four local authorities trialling a series of flexible plastics household collection and recycling pilots.

The second ‘Industrialisation Stage’, aims to build ‘an evidence base’ through which the industry might share learning and develop best practice with ‘key insights into the operational issues, yields and recyclability of flexible packaging, effective communications with residents, and the costs of incorporating it into the UK’s current recycling system.’

The pilot is co-managed by a consortium comprising the project co-funders, Ecosurety, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK and WRAP and benefits from industry and government partners, including Defra, LARAC and ESA.

FlexCollect interim results

In January 2024, FPF FlexCollect released an Interim Report, sharing results and insights at the project’s halfway point. The report found that 89 per cent of respondents were ‘very satisfied’ with inclusion of the service as part of their recycling. Overall participation among monitored pilots was 60 per cent, rising to 64 per cent where a weekly collection of the service was offered.

The report also highlights the average weight of 291 grams presented per collection bag per household across all pilots, which would be equivalent to 15 kgs a year diverted from disposal.

Flexible plastics

Flexible plastic packaging represents nearly a quarter of all UK consumer plastic packaging and is responsible for protecting 40 per cent of products. However, only around six per cent of the 895,000 tonnes placed on the UK market every year is recycled. Common examples include any soft packaging such as plastic film, cling film, metallic layered plastics (such as crisp packets) and pouches.

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