UK businesses make world-first pact to slash plastic packaging

Major firms including Nestlé, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Unilever have today (26 April) made joint commitments to make unnecessary single-use plastic packaging "a thing of the past".

The Plastic Pact includes signatories from 42 businesses that are responsible for more than 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold in UK supermarkets.

The likes of Asda, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble (P&G) have vowed to eliminate single-use packaging through redesign by 2025. The Pact will also see members ensure that 100% of plastic packaging can be reusable, recyclable or compostable.

Backed by the UK Government and launched by not-for-profit WRAP, the Plastic Pact will look to stimulate new business models and build a new recycling system to tackle plastic pollution in the UK.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: “Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realised if government, businesses and the public work together. Industry action can prevent excess plastic reaching our supermarket shelves in the first place.

“I am delighted to see so many businesses sign up to this pact and I hope others will soon follow suit.”

Research and innovation

Signatories will aim to make 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled and composted, and 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging. The Pact’s immediate focus will be to identify innovative projects which increase recycled content and develop reusable packaging solutions.

The announcement follows a wave of pledges from major businesses to reduce their amount of single-use plastics. One such firm is Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), which currently has on average 25% recycled content in its PET bottles and has set a 50% target by 2050.

Writing exclusively in a blog for edie ahead of the Pact’s launch, CCEP’s head of sustainability Nick Brown said the company was proud to be a founding member.

Brown said: “The Pact is a bold and unique cross-sector initiative, bringing together the entire plastics value chain behind a common set of ambitious targets, to keep plastic in the economy and out of the environment.

“Encompassing innovation, research and new business models, the pact will encourage the industry to rethink and redesign the packaging put on the market in the first place, and how we can encourage different delivery models to reduce unnecessary packaging.”

Economic opportunity

The UK Government plans to eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042. As part of this pledge, Theresa May last week announced a proposed ban on plastic straws in England. This came hot off the heels of a decision to consult on a nationwide deposit return scheme for plastic containers.

decline in plastic bags found in the seas around the UK has been linked to the introduction of charges for plastic bags and the UK Government hopes similar interventions for straws and stirrers will limit additions to the 150 million tonnes of plastic littering the oceans globally.

Today’s new initiative has received the backing of NGOs including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “We are delighted to launch this pioneering national implementation initiative with WRAP in the UK,” Dame Ellen MacArthur said.

“This bold new pact will bring together businesses, policymakers and the public to create a circular economy for plastics that tackles the causes of plastics waste and pollution, not just the symptoms. Focussing on innovation, better packaging design and end-of-use systems will not only generate long-term benefits for the environment, but is also a huge economic opportunity.”

George Ogleby

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