WRAP has published a list of eight problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics that Pact members are expected to remove from shelves by the end of 2020.
WRAP, the resource efficiency body that oversees The UK Plastics Pact, has accompanied the list of eight plastics destined for elimination with a second list of nineteen plastic items which are to be prioritised for action to tackle problems associated with them by 2025.
The definition of what is meant by ‘problematic’ or ‘unnecessary’ plastic relies on the following criteria - where it is avoidable or a re-usable alternative is available, when it cannot be recycled or hampers the recycling process, or when it is commonly littered and pollutes the environment.
The eight plastics published by WRAP to eliminate include:
- Disposable plastic cutlery - these items are often found littered on beaches and can be easily replaced with re-usable cutlery or alternative materials such as wood
- All polystyrene packaging - used extensively for take-away food, yogurt pots and to package white goods, this material is not recyclable in the UK
- Cotton buds with plastic stems - often found littering beaches and easily replaced with card or fibrous materials
- Plastic stirrers - easily replaced with a re-usable metal spoon or alternative material such as wood
- Oxo-degradable plastics that break down into microplastics - these plastics fragment into microplastics in the environment and the material is difficult to identify by citizens. Reusable alternatives are preferred, otherwise compostable or recyclable plastics should be used
- Plastic straws - in most cases these are deemed to be unnecessary and are not usually recycled
- Disposable plastic plates and bowls - these should be replaced with reusable options
- PVC packaging - this plastic is not recyclable and is a contaminant to plastic that is, a problem compounded by the fact that it is not easily identifiable by citizens
This approach by WRAP anticipated the UK Government’s ban on straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds and the European Union’s Single Use Plastic Directive which additionally targets expanded (but not all) polystyrene food containers, and single-use plastic cutlery and plates.
Collaboration and effort required from all business
This major step forms part of the first of four UK Plastics Pact targets to achieve by 2025 that 76 businesses, representing the whole of the value chain including those collectively responsible for 85% of plastic packaging sold through supermarkets, are signed up to:
- Take actions to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging items through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery models.
- 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
- 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
- 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging
A range of actions such as considering re-fills, improved packaging design and optimising recycling will be required to solve the issue of these problem plastics, requiring collaboration and effort from all businesses. Ensuring that citizens are both motivated to recycle, and are clear on what can be recycled and how to recycle it is also a key focus.
WRAP warns however, in seeking to overcome the problems with these plastics any unintended consequences that could lead to further global warming must be avoided.
Implement changes urgently
Peter Maddox, Director WRAP, commented "We know that more people than ever are concerned about the impact of plastics. The fundamental way industry can support this public desire is by addressing the issues that lead to plastic packaging being problematic. 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."
"In many cases, plastic may be the best material choice from an environmental perspective. In these cases, we need to ensure that the plastic can be and is recycled. The items listed today are priorities for UK Plastics Pact members, and the onus is on those members to implement changes, urgently."
Jon Brookes, head of partnerships at Ecosurety commented "Ecosurety wholeheartedly welcome this commitment by UK Plastics Pact members as it is a significant step towards improving the plastics problem."
"As a leading compliance scheme and a UK Plastics Pact member ourselves, we are in a strong position to utilise our data and industry expertise to assist those who are working towards the commitments and who will be reporting on their progress."
Target list for 2025
In addition to the list of eight plastics to eliminate by the end of 2020, nineteen plastic items and materials are to be actively investigated with UK Plastics Pact members to develop solutions that address issues related to how we purchase and use these items through either reuse, re-design and/or recycling or composting by 2025.
The lists will be kept under constant review by The UK Plastics Pact to ensure the target of eliminating problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging is met by 2025. This includes:
- Plastic bags
- Plastic film packaging
- Multi-layer non-recyclable plastics
- Multi-pack rings for canned drinks
- Multi-veg/fruit net bags
- Multi-buy bulk (secondary) wrapping
- PVC cling film
- Bottle tops/caps
- Single-use drinks bottles
- Non-recyclable coloured plastics
- Fruit & veg punnets/trays,
- Internal plastic trays
- Disposable plastic cups
- Fruit/veg stickers
- Plastic cup lids
- Plastic coffee pods
- Milk and salad dressing jiggers, single serving pots and sachets
- Tear off tamper evident strips on containers
If you are a UK Plastics Pact member and would like to find out more about how Ecosurety can assist with your data reporting and analysis, please contact our team.
Click here to access the Eliminating problem plastics report
Marketing projects specialist
Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.