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Packaging industry must “wake up” and commit to recycling

Leading stakeholders have called on the packaging supply chain to reaffirm its commitments to plastics recycling amidst fears over the future of the domestic recycled plastics sector.

Leading stakeholders have called on the packaging supply chain to reaffirm its commitments to plastics recycling amidst fears over the future of the domestic recycled plastics sector.

At a meeting called by government on 18 March to bring together leaders from across the supply chain, the plastic packaging industry was asked to respond to a call from the British Plastics Federation (BPF) to strengthen support for recycled plastics after it warned that ongoing low oil prices were damaging the plastics reprocessing industry.

‘Sustainability message’

Director-general of the BPF, Philip Law, urged packaging companies to keep in mind the high recycling targets of packaging waste regulations and the increasing corporate support for recycled content when selecting their raw materials.

“The carbon saving and resource efficiency benefits of plastic products has been enhanced by the increased levels of plastics recycling seen today”, he said.

“Plastics recycling is an essential component of the whole chain’s sustainability message and we should not allow our record to regress.”

Public support

The meeting was also fuelled by a recent YouGov online survey which showed that 68 per cent of the public would support an increase in the price of plastic milk bottles in order to ensure that they contain at least 30 per cent recycled content and are recycled into new products after use. 

A further 71 per cent of respondents also said they would support new legislation requiring manufacturers and producers to use recycled content in their plastic packaging. 

‘Take note, wake up and act’

Ray Georgeson, chief executive of the Resource Association, said: “The Great British public ‘gets’ recycling, and is sending a clear signal to industry and retailers alike – they support the UK plastics recycling industry and would support the fractional additional cost of 0.1p on a two pint plastic milk bottle that it will take to sustain reprocessing of recycled plastic milk bottles in the UK. 

“The decision makers in the supply chain must take note, wake up and act to support UK reprocessing through the storm of low oil prices.”

Supply chain ‘committed’

In response, many leading figures in the supply chain reiterated their support for UK plastics recycling.

Jim Mosely, interim director-general at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), said: “Through our longstanding support for WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment, FDF members remain fully committed to helping deliver increased recycling levels of used packaging, particularly plastics. 

“This forms part of the industry’s broader efforts to drive out waste and improve resource efficiency under our Five-Fold Environmental Ambition. We are committed to working with our supply chain partners and other stakeholders to help ensure we build on this success.”

Director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), Andrew Opie, said: “We are aware of difficulties in the plastics recycling industry and are supportive of the principles of recycled content in packaging and products.

“Our members are signed up to a number of commitments in this area and will continue to work towards them.”