The launch of a UK Plastics Pact by WRAP – a voluntary initiative to prompt manufacturers, waste management firms and retailers to reduce single-use plastic packaging waste – has certainly made a splash across the media.
Although many within the industry are queuing up to hail the initiative as a significant breakthrough, there have been some murmurings that voluntary commitments are not enough and that compostable plastic should be kept out of the picture.
Here, MRW lists just some of the reactions from industry players.
David Palmer-Jones, chief executive, Suez Recycling and Recovery UK: “The Plastics Pact is a major step forward towards making environmental protection economically viable.
“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 and reused and not wasted, or worse, littered and polluting our rivers and oceans.
“Business is right to listen to consumer concerns about plastics pollution. We look to the Government to see through work underway to introduce progressive policies to extend producers’ responsibility for their products and packaging beyond consumption, and help to make Britain an international leader in resource reuse.
“The Government can seize business and consumer willingness to create a sustainable circular economy thorough its emerging resources and waste strategy, and to act across the value chain.”
David Newman, managing director, Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association: “We are keen to be part of this transformation of the way in which we produce, use and dispose of plastics in the UK. Indeed, the UK has the potential to become a significant player in the new generation of compostable plastics, which can be used in food packaging and help to drive up food waste collections and recovery.
”As we strive to reduce plastics waste and increase food waste treatment, we can achieve both goals by adopting compostable plastics where perishable food packaging is needed, and get these back to composting and AD and to use on soil. We need high-quality organic carbon to get back to soil in ever larger volumes to ensure the long-term sustainability of farming in the UK. Plastics, food, energy and soil are all interconnected themes that we want the Plastics Pact to pull together for the benefit of our environment and our economy.”
Simon Ellin, chief executive, Recycling Association: “The UK Plastics Pact has the potential to transform plastics recycling.
“It is good to see efforts to tackle single-use plastics and that the waste hierarchy has been taken into consideration to encourage reuse and recycling. In particular, a requirement for an average of 30% recycled content in all plastic packaging will help to ensure markets for recyclable plastics are sustainable.
“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.”
Stuart Lendrum, executive director, On-Pack Recycling Label: “This important initiative, a global first, brings together the key players in producing, distributing and reprocessing plastics packaging in the UK.
“Unsurprisingly, OPRL members are at the heart of this initiative, showing their leadership and drive to improve the sustainability of packaging and to engage consumers in actively recycling. We are committed to giving them the tools and support they need to deliver against those promises – for example, we’ve already taken action to address the urgent need to capture plastic straws in on-the-go drinks cartons by developing a new label with an INSERT STRAW call to action, seeking to avoid littering and increase the proportion of plastic that’s recycled.”
Jacob Hayler, executive director, Environmental Services Association: “The 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. We are therefore delighted to support the Plastics Pact, which is extremely timely given increased public concern about plastics leaking into the environment and the sustainable use of plastics.
“The targets set in the pact are hugely ambitious and will require the whole supply chain working together constructively, with a clear plan for doing so, while complementing any legislative changes likely to feature in Defra’s forthcoming Resources & Waste Strategy. For the pact to be successful, it needs to deliver meaningful, tangible actions and the ESA will support the pact in this regard.”
Dan Cooke, regulatory affairs director, Viridor: “The pact sets out clear UK ambitions for a more responsible and resource-efficient approach to plastics by all sectors, including our own, and provides the practical framework Viridor has been calling for so long.
“The UK uses 38.5 million plastic bottles every day, of which 15 million are still not recycled. And that’s just the bottles. This shows the scale of the opportunity that we all have to make a real difference.
“This pact is a big step forward because it enables all stakeholders to direct their efforts to meaningful change on plastic. 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.
“As a leading UK recycler, Viridor has continued to invest in sophisticated and innovative sorting and reprocessing technology. We recognise the business and public appetite for more recycling, and we are keen to do more so we can maximise the volumes recycled and contribute to a more resource-efficient UK.”
Julian Kirby, campaigner, Friends of the Earth: “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 reuse of the material, regulations and taxes should be introduced.
“But, ultimately, the only long-term solution is a complete phase-out of plastic for all but the most essential uses. Ministers must draw up an action plan covering all plastic-polluting sectors, including clothing, cosmetics and vehicles, to make this a reality.”