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WRAP applauds progress made by UK Plastics Pact members

Removing black plastic packaging from supermarket shelves and replacing single-use plastic cutlery with recyclable alternatives are just some of the actions taken by members of the UK Plastics Pact over the past year, according to a new report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

The Pact is a voluntary agreement established in April 2018 by WRAP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) to drive the UK towards a circular economy for plastics. The new report, released on Tuesday (21 May), charts the progress made by signatories from the manufacturing and retail sectors against the Pact’s four targets for 2025, which are:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative delivery models (such as reuse);
  • 100 per cent of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable;
  • 70 per cent of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted; and
  • 30 per cent average recycled content across all plastic packaging.

WRAP applauds progress made by UK Plastics Pact membersUK Plastics Pact members have taken a number of steps to target single-use plastics, including retailers removing plastic cutlery and straws from sale and in their cafes, something that will be mandatory from April 2020 as an announcement today (22 May) confirmed – the government will be banning the sale of single-use plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in England.

Pact members Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, M&S and Morrisons are all trialling removing plastic packaging across a number of produce lines in order to understand where alternatives can be sought without affecting food safety and wastage.

Black plastic packaging – a nightmare for recyclers due to the pigment used in manufacturing, which makes it undetectable in optical sorting machines – has also been a target for retailers and packaging producers. M&S is phasing out 1,700 tonnes of black plastic, while Lidl is removing all black plastic packaging from its primary fruit and vegetable packaging and Ocado has removed it from 83 product lines. Manufacturer Unilever is working with waste management companies to develop a new black pigment for its personal care product bottles that can be detected in sorting machines and effectively recycled.

‘Huge array of initiatives’

To ensure that plastic packaging is effectively recycled, members of the Pact have stepped up their communications to citizens over what can and cannot be recycled, with all retailer members signed up to the On Pack Recycling Labelling scheme. Producers such as Coca-Cola, which included ‘Please Recycle Me’ messages on over 500 million bottle tops last year, and Britvic, which placed a ‘Please Recycle’ message on its recent Robinsons Fruit Creations TV advert, have also placed a greater emphasis on citizen engagement.

Progress has been made towards reaching an average 30 per cent recycled content across all plastic packaging – particularly salient given the government’s intention to introduce a tax on manufactured and imported plastic packaging containing less than 30 per cent recycled plastic in April 2022. Danone reports that all 750 millilitre, one litre and 1.5 litre Evian water bottles produced for the UK market now contain 50 per cent recycled content, while Ecover and Highland Spring Group have launched PET bottles made entirely from recycled plastic.

Commenting on the progress made so far, WRAP CEO Marcus Gover said: “When we launched the UK Plastics Pact a year ago, we knew that we had a monumental task on our hands. Tackling plastics pollution remains high in the public consciousness, and citizens quite rightly want to see action from the businesses that put plastic packaging onto our supermarket shelves and into our cafes and restaurants. So I’m delighted to celebrate the first anniversary of the Pact by revealing the huge array of initiatives members have been working on over the past year.

“The first year was about building solid foundations and setting a clear direction of travel for collaborative change. Moving forward there will be tough decisions to make, new innovations to foster, and investment to be made – all at great pace and with an urgency that reflects the scale of the problem we are tackling. Our members have shown they are up for the challenge and we have great momentum to propel us forward. I’m convinced we are on the way to transforming forever the way we make, use and dispose of plastic.”

While the UK Plastics Pact targets are to be achieved by 2025, WRAP is calling for urgency in their implementation, stating that members should remove polystyrene and PVC from food packaging by, as far as possible, the end of this year – and from non-food products by 2020 – while only plastic that can be sorted effectively in the recycling process should be used by the end of 2019.

You can read the full UK Plastics Pact Progress Report on the WRAP website.

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