Top brands come on board recycled packaging trials

Some of the UK's biggest retailers have joined a series of commercial trials that will assess the effectiveness of recycled products made from Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) plastic.

Funded by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the trials will assess how successful the recycled PET plastic (rPET) is as retail packaging in collaboration with some of the UK’s leading product brands, such as Coca-Cola, and retailers, including Marks & Spencer and Boots.

PET plastic is very versatile as it can be recycled into many different types of products, and this is the first time that rPET will be used in such a large number of high-profile, high-volume product lines in the UK.

Closed Loop London and London Remade will be leading the Marks & Spencer and Boots projects, adding technical and recycling expertise to the retailers’ experience in packaging.

“The trials will address consumer and industry perceptions, technical performance and cost implications alongside the actual application of recycled PET in packaging,” managing director of Closed Loop London Robert Pascoe explained.

“We firmly believe that by using rPET in packaging and creating a strong local demand, recovery rates will increase from below 10%, as they currently stand, to greater than 50%, as is achieved in many other countries.”

PET is used for a significant proportion of plastic bottles and is increasingly used in other types of packaging. Over the last year, around 250,000 tonnes of PET was used in the UK, of which only around 15,000 tonnes was recycled across Britain. Very little of this, however, went back into UK packaging production.

Over 2,000 tonnes of rPET are expected to be used in the initial trials and each partner is planning to continue using the material after the trials have ended, providing the results are positive. The final conclusions will be publicly disseminated and the successful outcomes will be used to promote the wider adoption of rPET in retail packaging.

Two of the three trials involve food and beverage packaging. Adhering strictly to food contact regulations, these are designed to prove the safety and suitability of rPET, which is regularly used in food contact packaging in other countries but currently only to a very limited extent in the UK.

The recycled packaging will be thoroughly tested for both performance and consumer appeal over a six month period, during which the products will be on national distribution.

The rPET products will be used to make carbonated and non-carbonated drink containers at Coca-Cola, food and beverage packaging lines at Marks & Spencer, and as materials used to make bottles containing personal care products at Boots.

“We are delighted to be working with such well known consumer names,” said Peter Skelton, a materials development manager at WRAP. “Not only will we benefit from their vast expertise in packaging, but we will have a highly targeted and relevant set of results with which to encourage other retailers and branded manufacturers to use rPET.”

“The project will allow us to work more closely with the high volume suppliers of rPET in order to help to secure supply and consistent quality, as well as improve our understanding of the economics of the market.”

Contracts have now been signed with all the partners and the trial packaging will be on shelves during 2005. The project will be completed in March 2006 and the results will be made publicly available by early Summer 2006.

By Jane Kettle

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