The UK Plastics Pact one year on – what’s changed?

The UK Plastics Pact launched twelve months ago to encourage both businesses and government to tackle plastic waste.

Now WRAP, the government’s waste action body, has published a report to highlight the progress made by its members to date.

The UK Plastics Pact set four major goals to be achieved by 2025, under which members have reported their current progress.

The targets set by WRAP are as follows:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative re-use delivery models
  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • 70% of plastic effectively recycled or composted
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

Under these targets a number of businesses have made significant changes.

M&S have replaced plastic cutlery with versions made from FSC certified wood and swapped plastic straws for paper. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, M&S and Morrisons are trialing the removal of plastic across a number of product lines, and Tesco, Aldi and Asda have together removed a total of almost 700 tons of non-recyclable polystyrene pizza bases by replacing them with a cardboard alternative.

According to the report, members have also made widespread progress on removing unrecyclable black plastic from their packaging, and several supermarkets now welcome the use of customers’ own containers at fresh food counters.

Large members like Boots, Hovis and Coca-Cola have made the recycling messages on their packaging more prominent. Meanwhile, PepsiCo (Walkers Crips) has launched the UK’s first nationwide crisp packet recycling scheme. Open to crisp packets of any brand, it’s free and has already collected 2.4 million packets.

More companies are also introducing higher levels of recycled content into their packaging, with Danone reporting that all 75cl, 1L and 1.5L of Evian bottles for the UK market now contain 50% recycled content. Innocent have achieved a minimum of 30% recycled content in their bottles, while Ecover and Highland Spring Group have launched PET bottles with 100% recycled content.

Looking ahead, many members are considering refillable alternatives for plastic packaging (particularly for cleaning products) so that the primary packaging is reusable.

Although the Pact targets officially run until 2025, WRAP is urging members to act urgently.

This progress report is the first from WRAP, and will now be updated twice a year.