WRAP initiative to transform UK plastics system under development

On the same day that Theresa May spoke of the ‘environmental scourge’ of plastic waste while launching the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan (11 January), the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has announced a new initiative in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) aiming to tackle plastic pollution while transforming the UK plastics system.

The initiative is still in development but looks to build on concepts in the EMF’s 2016 report, ‘The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics’, in which it was revealed that without intervention the world’s oceans could to hold more plastic than fish by 2050.

By applying circular economy principles to global plastic packaging flows, the report envisioned a ‘New Plastics Economy’ which would prioritise and reward the reuse and recycling of packaging materials, and reduce negative outcomes such as the large-scale leakage of plastic into our seas.

WRAP initiative to transform UK plastics system under development

The initiative announced today will be the first step towards implementation of the New Plastics Economy, WRAP and the EMF have announced: ‘a circular economy where plastic is valued and never becomes waste’. The partnership has identified five ambitious aims:

  1. Eliminate unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging
  2. Make sure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable
  3. Significantly increase the collection and recycling of plastic packaging
  4. Increase recycled content in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled material
  5. Impassion and enable citizens to play their part in reducing plastic packaging waste and litter

As in the report, this announcement focuses strongly on the need for cross-sector collaboration to bring about change, calling for engagement from producers, processors, local and national government, NGOs, citizens and the media.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the EMF, commented: “Creating a circular economy for plastics amounts to a huge opportunity for the economy as well as providing a longer-term benefit for the environment. Achieving it will require close collaboration and significant commitment from industry, government, and society at large.”

The initiative was announced as part of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, which was launched today in a speech by Theresa May with a specific focus on the huge problem of plastic waste. The government’s plan commits the country to eliminating ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042, with a range of actions aimed at reducing waste at all stages from point of production to end-of-life.

WRAP’s CEO Marcus Glover said that this expansive approach is important: “So far the solutions to plastic waste have been piecemeal. I am pleased to be leading this holistic initiative which will transform the UK’s plastics system. Working with the EMF, we will bring together every ‘body, business and organisation’ involved in the life cycle of plastics to make the move from a throwaway culture to one where resources are used over and over again.”

The initiative, which will be the first part of a global network to implement the New Plastic Economy, will be fully launched in the spring, giving engaged parties time to agree on a set of ambitions. 

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