Single-use plastic cutlery, stirrers, straws, plates and bowls, as well as all polystyrene packaging, are amongst a list of items that businesses will need to eliminate by 2020.
Members of the UK Plastics Pact, led by WRAP, will have to get rid of eight items now deemed “problematic” or “unnecessary”. Oxo-degradable plastics are also on the hit-list, as well as PVC packaging.
The initiative is also honing in on disposable plastic cups and lids, which are “often not recycled”. Businesses will be assessing whether the cups and lids, as well as 17 other items and materials, can be avoided, replaced (for example with reusables), redesigned or require further investment in labelling, messaging and collection infrastructure.
“For every item of packaging we need to consider whether plastic is the right material choice, or indeed if packaging is required at all,” said WRAP CEO Peter Maddox.
Many of the eight core items are either commonly found littered or have little chance of being recycled. In some cases, for example straws and polystyrene, WRAP has suggested “alternative materials”.
However, any actions businesses take in switching materials or eliminating packaging must not result in any so-called “unintended consequences”, for example increasing levels of food waste.
WRAP’s list, which is available in full here, comes ahead of potential bans on straws, stirrers and cotton buds in the UK, as well as the European Union’s Single-Use Plastic Directive, which also targets expanded (but not all) polystyrene food containers, and single-use plastic cutlery and plates.
The second list of 19 items and materials also includes multi-layer non-recyclable plastics, like pouches, bottle tops and caps and single-use drinks bottles. WRAP will now be developing individual action plans with UK Plastics Pact members to ensure that progress is made on this longer list as quickly as possible.
“In many cases, plastic may be the best material choice from an environmental perspective. In these cases, we need to ensure that the plastic can be and is recycled,” Maddox said.
There are currently 76 businesses, representing the whole of the value chain including those collectively responsible for 85% of plastic packaging sold through supermarkets, signed up to the voluntary Pact. However, representation from hospitality and foodservice brands - which will arguably hit hardest by some of the bans - remains low.
Executive director of the Foodservice Packaging Association Martin Kersh said unnecessary plastic items should be discouraged but businesses should ensure the alternatives purchased are fit for purpose and do not result in a higher carbon impact. “The packaging sector is actively innovating alternatives to many of the items named and we call upon WRAP to provide its support for this, particularly in assisting the industry to obtain research funds.”
July’s Plastic Package (July 15th) will cover the new lists in more detail.