A billion unnecessary single use plastic items are set to be eliminated by the end of 2020, according to the first annual report of The UK Plastics Pact from WRAP.
The report also reveals that pact members are more than halfway towards all of their packaging being recyclable and that members are a third of the way towards an average of 30% recycled content in their plastic packaging.
However, “highly complex challenges” remain, such as developing a recycling system for films and flexible packaging.
Launched in April 2018, The UK Plastics Pact is designed to promote a circular economy for plastics. It brings together businesses, governments and NGOs. The Netherlands and France have launched their own pacts, with Chile, Malaysia and South Africa set to follow.
The UK pact’s four main targets are to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging, for 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, for 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted and for 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
The report reveals that, currently, we are recycling 44% of our plastic packaging. Average recycled content is 10% across pact members. This is already saving more than half a million barrels of oil a year in virgin plastic production.
Progress reported includes:
Supermarkets have removed 3,400 tonnes of unnecessary plastic packaging from fresh produce – the equivalent of 272 London buses – and 137.5 million plastic stickers from fruit and vegetables.
New plastic reprocessing facilities have been announced by Viridor and Biffa.
All of the supermarkets are signed up to the On-Pack Recycling Labelling system and providing recycling collection points in store items which normally can’t be recycled from home.
Pact members have launching water bottles using 100% recycled content including Coca Cola and Highland Spring. Sprite moved from green to clear bottles this year.
Marcus Gover, WRAP chief executive, said that a key challenge would be developing a recycling system for plastic films, such as bread bags and crisp packets. They accounted for 25% of consumer plastic packaging, but only 4% of this material was being recycled. Other important issue to be tackled were increasing recycling and developing re-use and refill models.
He said: “The way that we make, use and dispose of plastic is transforming, and I am proud of the progress that the pact has made. Pact members have shown that they’re committed to this challenge and our new report demonstrates their breadth of action so far.”
WRAP’s progress report provides a detailed breakdown of actions so far and actions pledged by pact members.