One year on: How has WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact changed corporate approaches to single-use plastic?

The Pact has garnered the support of 127 organisations during its first year 

Backed by the UK Government and launched by not-for-profit WRAP, the UK Plastics Pact purported to be the first commitment of its kind, uniting corporates across the plastic value chain in a bid to improve recyclability, champion reuse and foster plastic-free innovations.

Its original 42 members, which include the likes of  Nestlé, Marks & Spencer (M&S),  Unilever, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and PepsiCo, were responsible for more than 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold in UK supermarkets at the time of its launch.

Since then, the initiative has grown to reach 127 members, garnering support from waste management firms, local authorities, universities and SMEs alongside the founding food and drinks and consumer goods giants.

Under the pact, signatories make four main commitments for 2025: eliminating unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign; making all plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable; achieving recycling and composting rates of 70% or more for packaging, and including 30% recycled content across all packaging.

WRAP has this week released its first annual progress report on the Pact, documenting how its largest signatories are progressing against each of these aims. The report states that the past 12 months have been a time of “building solid foundations and setting a clear direction of travel for collaborative change”, outlining best practice examples and highlighting areas which remain challenging. Here, edie rounds up the key findings.

Eliminating unnecessary single-use packaging through redesign

Since April 2018…

  • M&S has replaced plastic cutlery and straws in cafes with FSC-certified wood and paper alternatives.
  • Waitrose has committed to stop selling plastic cutlery by the end of 2019.
  • Morrisons has removed plastic straws from shelves and cafes, and switched plastic produce bags for paper alternatives.
  • Tesco, Asda and Aldi have replaced polystyrene pizza bases with cardboard alternatives, mitigating the production of 700 tonnes of non-recyclable material collectively.
  • Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, M&S and Morrisons have all begun trialling, or have scaled up, their loose fruit and vegetable offerings.
  • Ocado has removed polystyrene and PVC from 100% of its own-brand packaging lines.
  • P&G has reduced the number of dosers on Ariel Liquid bottles, in a move which will save 51 tonnes of plastic annually, and removed plastic handles from its large cardboard boxes of Fabric Care.
  • Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS) has committed to removing plastic straws from all of its Ribena cartons and has begun investigating plastic-free alternatives.
  • Lakeland has stopped selling plastics straws, cutlery and cups.

Making all plastic packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable

  • M&S has phased our 1,700 tonnes of non-recyclable black plastic.
  • Lidl has removed black plastics from all primary produce packaging.
  • Ocado has removed black plastics from 90% of its own brand lines that contained it previously.
  • Brakes has reduced its black plastic output by 80%, by weight.
  • Unilever has launched a new type of black plastic pigment which guarantees recyclability.
  • Morrison’s has stopped using polystyrene for egg boxes and has switched to paper pulp – a change which will mitigate the production of 294 tonnes of polystyrene annually.
  • Unilever’s PG Tips is switching to 100% home-biodegradable tea bags.
  • Reckitt Benckiser has removed the metal components from Cillit Bang, Vanish and Dettol cleaning triggers, making them recyclable in kerbside collections.

Achieving recycling and composting rates of 70% or more for packaging

  • All retailer members have signed up to the On-Pack Recycling Labelling (OPRL) scheme to provide clear messaging on what can or cannot be recycled. 
  • Hovis has begun printing a recycling logo on the front of its bread bags, encouraging people to bring them to in-store take-back schemes.
  • The Coca-Cola Company has introduced a ‘please recycle me’ message to 500 million of its bottle tops.
  • PepsiCo subsidiary Walkers has launched the UK’s first nationwide crisp packet recycling scheme, which is run in partnership with TerraCycle has collected 2.4 million packets to date.
  • Ella’s Kitchen has expanded its EllaCycle recycling scheme to 500 drop-off points, and a separate envelope collection scheme at 37 Asda stores.
  • Britvic has committed to invest £850,000 per year in UK recycling infrastructure through the purchase of UK-based Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs).

Including 30% recycled content across all packaging

  • Ecover has launched bottles made using 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) PET.
  • Highland Spring has rolled out 100% recycled water bottles nationwide, following successful trials.
  • Innocent Drinks’ smoothie bottles now contain 50% recycled content. The company has achieved the 30% minimum average across its whole portfolio.
  • Danone subsidiary Evian has reported that all 750ml, 1l and 1.5l bottles produced for the UK market now contain 50% recycled content.
  • LRS’s new ‘Ribena Frusion’ drinks are housed in 100% recycled plastic bottles.
  • Boots is using 25% recycled content in fruit pots and Botanics packaging. It has also switched virgin plastic prescription bags to ones containing 64% recycled content.

Next steps 

Going forward, Plastics Pact signatories will be required, under the scheme’s roadmap, to remove polystyrene and PVC from all products by the end of 2020. The roadmap also commits members to remove non-detectable black plastics from 100% of their packaging by the end of 2019.

WRAP’s chief executive Marcus Grover praised the progress of the signatories to date, but admitted it was “just the tip of the iceberg”.

“Moving forward, there will be tough decisions to make, new innovations to foster, and investment to be made – all at a great pace and with an urgency that reflects the scale of the problem we are tackling,” he said.

“Our members have shown they are up for the challenge and we have great momentum to propel us forward. I’m convinced we are on the way to transforming forever the way we make, use and dispose of plastic.”

edie’s Mission Possible Plastics Hub

This month, edie launched a dedicated microsite for its Mission Possible Plastics Hub – a content-driven campaign supporting sustainability and resource efficiency professionals on our collective mission to eliminate single-use plastics.

Launched in January 2019, the Mission Possible Plastics Hub acts as the go-to webpage for insight, information and inspiration for businesses seeking to combat the issues of single-use plastics within their operations and across their value chains.

It is also encouraging sustainability professionals to submit new commitments to tackle plastic pollution on the Mission Possible Pledge Wall. If your company has an existing plastics commitment, or if you’re planning a new commitment over the coming months, you can showcase it on the Mission Possible Pledge Wall.




(By submitting a pledge, edie readers are agreeing to the commitment, target date and expected benefits being published on the Mission Possible Pledge Wall, along with their name and job title. They are also agreeing to being contacted by a member of the edie editorial team, should any further information about their pledge be required.)

Sarah George

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