Retail giant Marks & Spencer is assessing whether it could reduce plastic packaging down to one type of polymer which would help recycling, the company revealed yesterday (29 September).
Senior packaging technologist and innovation lead at Marks & Spencer, Kevin Vyse told delegates at the annual Recoup conference in Peterborough that the retailer is exploring the possibility of reducing all plastic packaging to a single polymer type.
He said: “Consumers are still confused, the still don’t know what to do with plastic. As a business we are asking how do we make that easier for customers to understand and the big debate that we are having at the moment is do we get to just one polymer?”
Mr Vyse added: “As an organisation, we want to challenge our partners to ask what they are going to do on this issue.”
The view from the retailer came at the annual conference of Peterborough-based Recoup which promotes the recycling of plastics.
Commenting also on the variety of polymers, Andrew Bird, chair of local authority organisation Larac, also alluded to confusion among the general public on plastic recycling as an issue affecting local authorities. “My view is that all the talk about collection systems misses the point, it is not the way we collect materials, the difficulty is collecting different materials at different authorities.”
Mr Bird said plastic pots tubs and trays were a particular area of confusion for householders with 70% of local authorities now thought to be collecting the material and 30% not.
He said: “We need the supply chain to work together to create demand, my message is can we reduce the range of polymers used?”
Stuart Foster, chief executive of Peterborough-based Recoup, revealed the results of the organisation’s annual household recycling report at the conference. This showed that a total of 499,625 tonnes of plastic packaging had been collected in the UK during 2015.
The figures suggest that an overall increase of recycling of plastic packaging of 1.4% was seen throughout the year. Mr Foster suggested that this is the first time in around 20 years that the collection rates has failed to make any significant improvement.
“Last year I hoped we would be ready to say that we have reached half a million tonnes but maybe that will now happen next year.”Stuart Foster
During his opening address to the conference, he said: “Collection levels are slowing for the first time in 20 years, the collection of plastics has not changed. Is that ok or do we use it as a shot in the arm for action? Last year I hoped we would be ready to say that we have reached half a million tonnes but maybe that will now happen next year.”
Mr Foster added that the plastics recycling sector is currently experiencing a period of transition with a number of external factors likely to affect businesses in the industry. He said: “We are in a transition period whether it is Brexit or harmonisation and consistency, or educating the consumer, there is a lot of work to do. Are we making progress or are we standing still? “We need to deliver on a practical level backed up by a genuine strategy.”