A new report shows that UK companies face very complex technical and economic challenges to meet plastic reduction targets.
Members of the Plastic Pact initiative are making progress on the four goals set out in the waste reduction program, but key challenges remain if the group's long-term goals are to be met.
That's the conclusion of the latest official update from the group's coordinators, WRAP, a waste charity, which for the first time details baseline data for plastics use and plastic recycling rates from members of the Plastics Pact. .
British environmental news website BusinessGreen reports that WRAP also outlines actions taken by individual members towards targets, which were set at the group's launch in April 2018 and are due to be met by 2025.
Eighty-five companies in the manufacturing, retail, foodservice, and recycling industries are now signed up to the pact, which requires members to commit to four goals covering eliminating unnecessary plastic use, recycling plastic packaging and increasing the recycled content of packaging.
Data collected from members of the pact reveals that 1 billion problematic and unnecessary single-use plastic items will be disposed of by the end of next year.
BusinessGreen reports that most members have already recalled various items, such as straws and cotton swabs, while supermarkets have recalled 3,400 tons of plastic fresh produce packaging and 137.5 million plastic fruit and vegetable stickers.
Members of the pact have also signed up to ensure that 100 percent of plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
WRAP data reveals that when the pact began, only 65 percent of the plastic packaging sold by members was recyclable.
Since then, supermarkets have removed more than 19,000 tonnes of non-recyclable black plastic from supermarkets, with UK supermarkets Morrisons and the Cooperative removing the material entirely from their own brand products and replacing it with plastic of an alternative or transparent color. , which is easier to be recycled
However, the report highlights a number of important barriers to meeting the recyclability goal, such as the development of a recycling system for plastic films such as bread bags and crisp packages.
These difficult-to-recycle materials account for 25 percent of consumer plastic packaging, but only four percent are recycled.
All of the large supermarkets have begun providing in-store plastic recycling collection points for stretch film plastic, such as frozen food bags, carry bags and bread bags, WRAP said.
The report found that nearly half of plastic packaging was already being recycled when the Pact started, adding that recycling rates should continue to rise as new investments in recycling facilities come online.
Examples include a £ 27 million processing plant from waste management company Biffa set to open in January 2020, WRAP said.
Members of the pact have also committed to achieving an average of 30 percent recycled content in all plastic packaging.
Benchmark data shows that the packaging already contained about 10 percent recycled content in 2018, saving more than half a million barrels of oil.
However, increasing the share of recycled content to 30 percent will be a challenge, as there is currently not enough high-quality recycled plastic available, according to the report. Designing packaging to be easier to recycle will be vital to meeting the goal, WRAP said.
Marcus Gover, CEO of WRAP, said the way plastic was manufactured, used and disposed of was changing, but added that there was no "magic wand" to accomplish the goals.
"We are selecting a highly complex and well-established system and making sure that we do not just shift the environmental cost elsewhere," the official said.
“Maintaining the valuable role that plastic packaging plays, especially in preventing food waste, is crucial. We cannot play with the climate in our desire to combat plastic pollution ”, stated Gover
He added that addressing the technical challenges presented by flexible packaging and films, increasing recycling rates, and developing reuse and refill models for packaging were the pact's top priorities.
The report also noted that several other countries have followed the example set by the UK-based group Plastic Pact, including the Netherlands and France.
Pacts are also being developed in Chile, Malaysia and South Africa, with more countries in the works, WRAP said.