Plastic Planet: focus on plastic waste for new WRAP campaign

Leading with the figure that 79 per cent of all plastic ever created is still in the environment today, a new plastic-focused campaign from the Waste and Recycling Action Programme (WRAP) says the world is fast becoming a ‘plastic planet’ - and hopes to engage consumers to improve recycling rates in order to combat this.

Plastic Planet: focus on plastic waste for new WRAP campaign
With 58 per cent of plastic bottles and 32 per cent of pots, tubs and trays currently making their way to recycling, this leaves a large ‘recycling gap’ that needs to be closed. To achieve this, Recycle Now, the UK’s national recycling campaign managed by WRAP, has added a plastic-focused string to its bow with its new ‘Plastic Planet’ campaign, which wants to engage consumers to help improve the UK’s plastic recycling rate.

WRAP Director Peter Maddox explained: “WRAP is meeting the plastic challenge head on, addressing its use across the whole industry, as well as in the homes of citizens, to create sustainable solutions. It’s great to see so much momentum behind the fight against plastic waste from the public. Recycle Now is taking the challenge to them, capturing citizen’s attention while the issue is very much in the spotlight.”

The Plastic Planet section of the Recycle Now website contains links to information about what types of plastics can be recycled and where, and also produced as part of the campaign is a range of digital materials in the form of short videos, specific either to Great Britain or Northern Ireland, which can be shared on social media; these are available from WRAP’s Resource Library for use by partners in order to further the reach of the message.

Single-use plastic waste remains very much the issue of the moment, with WRAP engaged in a number of developing projects around plastic specifically. Announced at the same time as the 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP) - which itself had a notable focus on plastics, promising to eliminate ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042 - was a joint initiative with circular economy specialists the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), aiming to tackle plastic pollution though reforming of the UK plastics system.

This joint project, to be officially launched in the spring, has been described as a ‘holistic’ initiative which will involve collaborative work between producers, processors, local and national government, NGOs, citizens and the media. It will also be a first step towards the implementation of the EMF’s ‘New Plastics Economy’, a report released in 2016 setting out a plan for a plastics system which would prioritise the reuse and recycling of packaging materials, while reducing their negative environmental impacts.

A central tenet of this initiative is to ‘impassion and enable citizens to play their part in reducing plastic packaging waste and litter’, and Maddox says the Plastic Planet campaign will be a part of this: “The new plastics initiative will ignite conversation and action across the industry to create a circular plastic system that works. We are exploring how we can further engage consumers with plastics as part of this, and are keen to use [the Plastic Planet campaign] to explain the value of packaging as well as how to recycle it.”

More recently, WRAP has penned an open letter to waste and resources industry stakeholders, on behalf of the government, calling for cross-industry contributions to a Plastic Waste and Recycling Strategy to drive progress towards the goals of the 25YEP.

Working with Paul Vanston, Chief Executive of INCPEN (Industry Council for research on Packaging and the Environment), WRAP’s CEO Marcus Gover has identified four areas where action is needed to help the UK increase its plastic recycling: business; government; local authorities and the recycling sector; and actions by consumers.

It is hoped the Plastic Planet campaign will provide the consumer-engagement element of this action plan, helping to fill knowledge gaps by providing easy access to information about plastic recycling. And with further commitments around plastic in the 25YEP yet to be elaborated on - including a mention of plastic-free supermarket aisles - it is clear that plastic waste will remain a central, headline-grabbing focus for the government for some time to come.

Visit the Recycle Now website for more information about the Plastic Planet campaign.

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