Fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies and retailers have joined forces in an attempt to boost flexible plastic recycling in UK.
Mars UK, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever have combined to finance and launch the ‘Flexible Plastic Fund’, which intends to improve the recycling opportunities of difficult-to-recycle plastic material in the UK such as wrappers, films, and pouches.
Key to the scheme is the guarantee of a minimum value of £100 per tonne of recycled product to incentivise recyclers to process flexible plastic. With just a small percentage of UK local authorities currently offering household collection of flexible plastics, the amount of this material collected for recycling is low.
The Flexible Plastic Fund is a UK industry first and is being led by producer compliance scheme, Ecosurety, with support from environmental charity, Hubbub. The initiative is expected to increase the supply of recycled plastic, enabling industry to become more ‘circular’ and meet the forthcoming UK plastic packaging tax obligations.
Several grocery retailers, including Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, have already started collecting flexible plastic in some of their stores – as the retail industry works at being more environmentally friendly.
The long-term ambition of the Flexible Plastic Fund is to allow this widely used material to be recycled via household collections.
According to the organisations behind the scheme, 80% of the plastics collected will be recycled in the UK – but this will rise to 100% by 2023. Until 2023, where there are currently limits in UK capacity and technology, with up to 20% set to be exported to qualifying facilities in Europe only.
Ecosurety and Hubbub said all the material will be fully traceable and tracked from the collector through to new products. Unlike many other schemes, recyclers will only be paid if the plastic is definitely recycled.
The recycled plastic will be turned into a range of products including non-food grade plastic, non-food-grade film, and food-grade film.
The Flexible Plastic Fund is calling for recyclers, manufacturers and retailers to get in touch to get involved in this ambitious initiative to make the UK plastics industry more circular.
Robbie Staniforth, head of innovation & policy at Ecosurety, noted: “Historically the UK recycling system has not provided enough motivation to recycle flexible plastics.
“By creating a sustainable market for this material, longer term improvements can be made to ensure the flexible plastic that remains necessary for packaging is reliably recycled and eventually contributes to a circular economy, thereby tackling plastic pollution.”
Marija Rompani, director of ethics & sustainability at Waitrose parent the John Lewis Partnership, added: “This initiative could be the springboard needed to change the way we handle flexible plastics in the UK, creating a recycling system that is both accessible to the public, circular and UK based.”
[Image credit: Flexible Plastic Fund]