Leading bottled drinks manufacturers commit to eliminating plastic packaging by 2030

A group of leading bottled water and soft drinks manufacturers have launched a report setting out a roadmap to eliminate plastic packaging waste from the bottled water and soft drinks value chain by 2030.

The report, entitled ‘Towards sustainable packaging: A plan to eliminate plastic packaging waste from UK bottled water and soft drinks’ and compiled by the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), was released today (6 September) and aims to encourage other industries beyond the bottled drinks sector to develop and adopt their own systemic roadmaps to eliminate plastic packaging waste.

The issue of plastic bottles is significant, with the UK currently using around 13 billion single-use plastic bottles a year, three billion of which end up being incinerated, sent to landfill or littered, finding their way into the countryside and the marine environment, while the recycling rate for plastic bottles has plateaued at 57 per cent for the past five years.Leading bottled drinks manufacturers commit to eliminating plastic packaging by 2030

The report was developed collaboratively by industry and its stakeholders, including those in the Future of Plastic Packaging Working Group: Lucozade Ribena Suntory and members of the Natural Hydration Council: Brecon Mineral Waters, Danone Waters (UK and Ireland), Harrogate Water Brands, Highland Spring Group, Montgomery Waters, Nestlé Waters UK, Shepley Spring and Wenlock Spring.

Aiming to further the transition to a circular economy. The report sets out key actions and aspirations to make eliminating plastic packaging waste a strategic priority. These include:

  • Producers to commit to all bottled water and soft drinks packaging to be made from 100 per cent recyclable or reusable material and aim for at least 70 per cent recycled material by 2025;
  • Producers and government to investigate the optimal material of the future for bottled water and soft drinks that eliminates plastic waste while ensuring the lowest overall environmental impact;
  • Producers and government to undertake research into consumer behaviour to support recycling ambitions towards achieving a ‘circular economy’ for bottled water and soft drinks packaging; and
  • Government to create a consistent nationwide recycling system, and reinvest revenue from new policies into UK recycling, sorting and reprocessing capacity.

Commenting on the report, Eliot Whittington, Director of Policy at CISL, said: “It is clear that the bottled water and soft drinks sectors are showing commitment to finding a solution to the plastic packaging waste problem and are grappling with the real challenges of doing so. The report we have released today with leading companies from these sectors aims to provide a clear, strategic and ambitious roadmap for transformation of their value chain in the UK, enabling real impact and action on this problem and spurring the sector forward into a new way of operating. We are now seeking to convene working groups to deliver on the four pathways set out in the report and encourage organisations and experts interested in eliminating plastic packaging waste to join them.”

Kinvara Carey, General Manager at the Natural Hydration Council, added: “Our members, along with Lucozade Ribena Suntory, commissioned CISL to help us create a collaborative roadmap to eliminate plastic packaging waste from the bottled water and soft drinks sectors. Our members are committed to leading this work and playing an active role in achieving these important goals, and finding solutions to the problem of plastic packaging waste so that none of the packaging ends up in landfill or as litter anywhere in the environment. It will be challenging but it is our duty as responsible organisations to deliver our products to people in the most sustainable way possible. It needs to be easy for people to dispose of all packaging responsibly, and with the confidence it will not go to landfill waste or worse, escape into the natural environment.”

Tony Juniper, Executive Director for Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF-UK, said: “If we are to protect our environment from the effects of plastic waste we must make an urgent transition to a circular, closed loop economy. Everyone has a part to play and it will require collaboration right across the board, from the designers of plastic packaging to retailers, to consumers, waste management companies and policy makers. It is great that this group of drinks companies have set out their willingness to act and if everyone else rises to the challenge too, especially governments, then solutions can quickly follow, reducing the appalling impacts plastic waste causes on wildlife, including whales, dolphins, turtles and seabirds.”

Plastic target

Plastics waste has cemented itself at the top of the public news agenda in recent times, thanks in large part to David Attenborough’s BBC series Blue Planet II, and the surge in public interest in plastics pollution has not gone unnoticed by the nation’s businesses and politicians.

Back in April, the UK Plastics Pact was launched by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to spur collaboration throughout the entire plastics value chain, working with government, NGOs and businesses, including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Coca-Cola European Partners, to transform the plastic packaging system in the UK and keep plastic in the economy and out of the ocean. The pact has a headline target of eliminating ‘unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025.

The government put plastics front and centre of its long-awaited 25 Year Environment Plan, committing the UK to eliminating ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042, while the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a consultation on the use of the tax system to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics in March, which subsequently saw the largest number of responses to a HM Treasury consultation ever, as well as a £20-million Plastics Research and Innovation Fund. Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has revealed plans to implement a deposit return scheme (DRS) for plastic, glass and metal drinks containers in England, among a raft of other policies.

You can read the CISL report – ‘Towards sustainable packaging: A plan to eliminate plastic packaging waste from UK bottled water and soft drinks’ – in full on the CISL website.

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