The ‘UK Plastics Pact’ has been largely welcomed by the industry and wider sector, although some have called for government measures to ensure the voluntary targets are met.
The Pact, launched today by WRAP, aims to eliminate “problematic or unnecessary“ single-use plastic packaging by 2025, as well as to ensure 100% of plastic packaging is recyclable.
Other aims in the Pact include a 70% rate of plastic packaging “effectively” recycled or composted, and a 30% rate of average recycled content across all plastic packaging (see letsrecycle.com story).
The Environmental Services Association (ESA) was one of the 15 organisations which signed up and its executive director, Jacob Hayler, said the “ambitious targets” will require the whole supply chain to co-operate.
Mr Hayler said: “ESA has long been calling for improvements in packaging design and ensuring that materials collected for recycling have strong end markets supported by greater use of recycled content in new packaging and products.”
He went on to add that the targets will need everyone to work together “while complementing any legislative changes likely to feature in Defra’s forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy”.
The Recycling Association, another organisation which signed up, stated in its response that the agreement has the ability to “transform” plastics recycling.
The association’s chief executive, Simon Ellin, explained that while he is pleased about the pledges, he does have some concerns.
“We have called on the supply chain to design packaging that is reusable or recyclable and we are pleased that these large manufacturers and retailers have signed up to do that by 2025,” Mr Ellin said.
He added: “One concern we have is that the pact allows for plastic packaging to be compostable, and we would hope that manufacturers and retailers will focus more on reuse and recycling of plastics. There is a danger that compostable plastic packaging will make it harder to sort and recycle plastics. We must there ensure that this Pact creates the highest quality recycled plastic to make it possible to meet the 30% recycled content target.”
From an industry perspective, David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of SUEZ UK, explained that the Pact is a first step in “making environment protection economical”.
Mr Palmer-Jones added that business is right to listen to consumer concerns.
He explained: “We have been working with a number of global consumer goods companies signed up to the Pact to ensure the valuable resources locked into complex laminated packaging can be recycled.
“Business is right to listen to consumer concerns about plastics pollution. We look to government to see through work underway to introduce progressive policies to extend producers’ responsibility for their products and packaging beyond consumption and help make Britain an international leader in resource re-use.”
Viridor, which is also a founder signatory to the UK Plastics Pact, will have a representative at the panel discussion at the official launch of the Pact later today, in the shape of regulatory affairs director Dan Cooke.
In a statement, Mr Cooke added that the Pact is a big step forward, particularly the “crucial commitments” to design products for easier recyclability.
“This Pact is a big step forward because it enables all stakeholders to direct their efforts to meaningful change on plastic,“ Mr Cooke said.
He added: “This includes consistent local authority collections to make it easier for households to put the right stuff in the right bin.
“The Pact also includes crucial commitments to design products for easier recyclability and to include more recycled content into the material being produced which will create the market demand to underpin the recycling process and greater investment in innovation.”
Friends of the Earth
Away from the industry, UK-environment charity Friends of the Earth summarised the Pact as a “move in the right direction”, but called for more government intervention to ensure a long-term solution.
The charity’s plastics campaigner, Julian Kirby, explained that to discourage industry from using virgin plastics, more regulations are needed.
Mr Kirby said: “Tough action from the makers and marketers of packaged goods is urgently needed to tackle the tsunami of plastic pollution entering our oceans.
“The Plastic Pact is certainly a move in the right direction, however government measures are also needed to ensure everyone plays their part, and that these targets are actually met. To discourage industry from using virgin plastic, and to boost their recycling and re-use of the material, regulations and taxes should be introduced.”
Source: letsrecycle.com Packaging