The NGO launched new guidance yesterday (13 May) to help retailers introduce consistent collections for flexible plastic packaging and help divert more from landfill or incineration.
Flexible plastic packaging includes items such as salad bags, crisp packets, biscuit wrappers, bread bags and frozen food bags.
Marcus Gover, WRAP’s CEO, said: “I am delighted that, through the UK Plastics Pact, the proportion of the population able to recycle all types of plastic bags and wrapping at supermarkets is on the increase, and we expect that by the end of the year it will be widely available.
“It is a critical step forwards when just 6% of plastics bags and wrapping currently get recycled – despite making up 22% of all plastic packaging by weight. Ensuring that consumers have consistent information on where to recycle plastic bags and wrappers is also critical.”
The guidance outlines best practice for introducing or refining existing collections. It calls for the collection of all types of plastic bags and wrapping used for everyday items.
It also calls for consistency in language and ease of use. WRAP suggests the design of packaging plays a critical role, urging businesses to move packaging into simpler ‘mono-material’ designs. The guide stresses the critical role played by businesses in stipulating recycled content in products and packaging wherever possible, to create the demand for recycled plastic.
Flexible plastic packaging
WRAP’s rallying cry was backed by several UK plastic film recyclers.
Mike Baxter, external affairs director at plastics recycler Berry Group, said: “Having already recycled front of store collected plastic packaging, we well understand the challenges. We have proved these materials can be recycled and, most importantly, re-manufactured into new packaging. However, we can’t do this on our own. All stakeholders have an important role to play, especially by ensuring purchasers of packaging specify front of store recyclate is included in raw material specifications.”
WRAP says that currently less than 20% of local authorities collect plastic bags and wrapping as part of their kerbside recycling service. It claims a “significant proportion” of the public say they are happy to take flexible plastic packaging to a supermarket for recycling until kerbside collections are rolled out widely.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is currently consulting on whether to include plastic film and flexible packaging within its minimum or ‘core set’ of dry recyclable waste streams requiring collection from the kerbside (see letsrecycle.com story).
Mike Maxwell, operations director at UK plastic bag and wrapping recycler Jayplas, said: “Our film sortation plant will sort this material by polymer type and colour and will contribute towards the UK significantly, increasing its recycling rates under the aims of the UK Plastics Pact.”
Many supermarkets already collect some types of plastic bags and wrapping, including soft stretchy plastic used for carrier bags, frozen food bags, bread bags and toilet roll wrap.
In March, Tesco announced 171 of its stores across the southwest of England and Wales would collect all types of plastic bags and wrapping, with plans to roll this out to all its stores nationwide.
Sainsbury’s began trialling collections in the northeast in February, with a full rollout expected by the end of this year (see letsrecycle.com story).
Other supermarkets are also carrying out trials, including the Co-op at 51 stores across the southeast (see letsrecycle.com story).
Iain Ferguson, environment manager at the Co-op, said: “Co-op is committed to making it easy for households to recycle all of their plastic food packaging, to prevent unnecessary waste and reduce pollution. Our own trials inform us that shoppers support simple solutions to these everyday issues with accessible disposal routes and clear messaging. We welcome the industry guidance which is designed to simplify recycling for consumers.”
WRAP’s front of store retailer guidance