Signatories to the UK Plastics Pact are to being encouraged to eliminate eight ‘hard to recycle’ plastic packaging materials from their product ranges by the end of 2020, including PVC packaging.
Pact members will be encouraged to remove PVC packaging “as fast as possible” and by the end of 2020 wherever this is viable.
PVC is seen as problematic for recyclers as it is not easily recyclable alongside other packaging polymers and it also contaminates plastic which could otherwise be recycled such as PET or HDPE.
However, the polymer is valued by packaging producers as it can be used in a diverse range of applications including rigid and films, and can be formed into products requiring complex shapes. It can be found in various forms, such as meat trays, plastic film around mushrooms or blister packs.
Seven other products – disposable plastic cutlery, polystyrene packaging, cotton buds with plastic stems, plastic stirrers, oxo-degradable plastics, plastic straws and disposable plastic plates and bowls – should be removed along the same timeline.
WRAP – which oversees the voluntary Plastic Pact initiative which 76 businesses have signed up to – have also identified 19 other ‘problematic’ plastics which they will work to develop solutions to by 2025.
This second group includes plastic bags, plastic film packaging, bottle tops, multi-pack rings for canned drinks, fruit and veg stickers, coffee pods and teabags.
Peter Maddox, director of WRAP, said that industry needed to respond to public concern about the impact of plastics.
He added: “So for every item of packaging we need to consider whether plastic is the right material choice, or indeed if packaging is required at all
“The items listed today are priorities for UK Plastics Pact members, and the onus is on those members to implement changes, urgently.”
Mr Maddox noted that in many cases plastic would still be the best material choice from an environmental perspective, but it must be ensured that this plastic could and would be recycled.
WRAP will be developing individual action plans with members of the pact scheme to ensure that the 2025 target can be met.
It says its work has anticipated the government’s ban on straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds and the European Union’s Single Use Plastic Directive, which sets targets for disposable cutlery and plates as well as some polystyrene food containers.
As with the government’s ban, the UK Plastic Pact includes exemptions for those with medical needs or disabilities that require access to plastic straws.
WRAP also published its definitions of “problematic” or “unnecessary” plastics.
The terms specify that the plastic is avoidable, an alternative is available, it cannot be recycled or hampers the recycling process, or that the material is commonly littered and pollutes the environment.
The new goals for Plastic Pact members aim to reduce the amount of plastic on UK shelves – this should reduce the demand for virgin plastic and avoid up to one tonne of CO2 emission per tonne of plastic that is recycled.