The UK Plastics Pact wants to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternatives and ensure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
Other partners include Arla, Cranswick, Dunbia, Innocent, Lucozade Ribena Suntory and Unilever.
Targets include 70% of plastic packaging to be recycled or composted after use. The companies also aim to increase the average recycled content used in plastic containers to to 30% in order to drive demand for recycled materials.
However, critics say it is voluntary and there are no guarantees targets will be met.
Alternative materials, light weight bottles and rPET
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the pledge as part of its New Plastics Economy initiative and Chile will follow later this year.
The pact, led in the UK by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), brings together business with UK government and NGOs.
Businesses include food and drink brands, manufacturers and retailers as well as plastic re-processors and packaging suppliers.
They are responsible for more than 80% of plastic packaging on products sold through UK supermarkets, according to WRAP estimates using Valpak data.
Britvic, chief marketing officer, Matt Barwell, said its plastic drinks packaging is recyclable in the UK system and carries the on-pack-recycling-label to encourage consumers to recycle.
“In 2017 we removed 308 tonnes of primary plastic bottle packaging from our supply chain by moving products onto our new bottling lines and accessing lighter weight bottles,” he said.
“Looking to the future of packaging, we are currently trialling the use of recycled plastic (rPET) in our bottles to help us achieve our aim of significantly increasing the amount of rPET we use.”
Leendert den Hollander, Coca-Cola European Partners, VP and general manager, said it has used light-weighting, recycled plastic and invested in UK recycling capacity.
“In our GB Packaging Strategy we committed to recover all of our packaging so that so that more is recycled and none ends up as litter, and we are doubling the amount of recycled plastic in our bottles to 50% by 2020.”
Increase recycled content and un-recyclable black plastic
Immediate focus will be on overcoming barriers to increasing the amount of recycled content in new packaging, developing reusable packaging and the issue of un-recyclable black plastic.
Another focus is the reliance on export markets for recycling - currently 67%.
WRAP CEO, Marcus Gover, said it is an opportunity to rethink the future of plastic to retain its value and curtail the damage caused by waste.
“This requires a wholescale transformation of the plastics system and can only be achieved by bringing together all links in the chain under a shared commitment to act. It unites every body, business and organisation with a will to act on plastic pollution.”
Retailers and industry
Retailers signed up include Asda, Aldi, Lidl, M&S, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said retailers will be at the heart of the initiative.
“The UK retail industry is leading the way in protecting the environment by reducing single-use plastic – taking over two billion plastic cotton buds from the market each year and phasing out plastic straws,” he said.
“We want to see a holistic approach to the environment and resources rather than shifting from single issue to single issue, so we welcome this comprehensive approach and the opportunity to work with other link-minded groups to tackle this problem together.”
Plastic firms featured are Aquapak, Ecover, Greiner Packaging, Faerch Plast, Jayplas, Novamont, Plastipak, SABIC and Valpak.
Barry Turner, British Plastics Federation, director of plastics and flexible packaging, said it is necessary to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.
“We look forward to providing industry expertise while continuing to develop the BPF’s Marine Litter Platform, with its objective of stopping plastic waste entering our oceans.”
Food and Drink Federation, chief scientific officer, Helen Munday, said: “Whilst we shouldn’t lose sight of the very important role plastic packaging plays in protecting and preserving food products throughout the food and drink supply chain, FDF fully recognises that more needs to be done to the capture the value of used packaging generated both on-the-go and in the home, especially through increased recycling."