Wrap reports mixed progress on plastics pledges

Food companies have reduced unnecessary plastic items by 40% over the past two years but ongoing problems with recycling flexible plastics is holding back progress on recyclability.

Wrap this week published its second annual Plastics Pact report measuring progress against 2025 targets. The pact brings together members from across the plastics value chain to change the way products are designed, produced, used, re-used, disposed and reprocessed.

It found that 400 million items classed as problematic or unnecessary were sold by pact members in 2019 representing a 40% reduction from 2018 but still someway short of a target to remove all such materials by 2025.

64% of plastic packaging placed on the market was recyclable in 2019. This marked a negligible increase from the 63% recorded in 2018 and would have been in negative growth but for a change in baseline from 65%. The target is for all plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The amount of plastic packaging recycled in the UK has increased from 44% in 2018 to 50% in 2019 versus a 70% target by 2025.

Average recycled content, meanwhile, has increased from 9% in 2018 to 13% in 2019 against a target of 30% by 2025.

Wrap welcomed the progress in packaging reduction and recycling but warned of “significant challenges” ahead which need “urgent attention” to keep the UK on course to hit its targets.

Chief executive Marcus Gover said developing solutions to overcome the challenges of recycling flexible plastic packaging would be a particular priority. “Collection points for plastic bags and films at supermarkets will be an important step in the right direction, but we need all supermarkets to collect all plastic films to make this work,” said Gover.

Wrap cited a number of innovations from pact members that had helped contribute to the latest figures. These include initiatives to remove shrink film from multi-packs of tinned foods, action from brands to remove non-recyclable black plastic and investment in plastic film recycling plants.

Citing the powers included in the government’s Environment Bill to introduce deposit return schemes for drinks containers and extended producer responsibility for packaging, environment minister Rebecca Pow said it was necessary to go “further and faster to tackle unnecessary plastic”.

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