Top firms embrace recycled PET bottles in UK

By Chris Mercer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Recycling

Recycled packaging has become a more viable option in the UK,
according to three leading firms spanning soft drinks, food
retailing and cosmetics, who have been trialling products and
gauging consumer opinion.

The three companies, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Marks & Spencer and cosmetics group Boots said they would consider using more recycled PET (rPET) following a year-long trial organised by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

Growing environmental concerns among both consumers and governments have led to higher demand for sustainably-sourced products over the last year, while soaring costs for plastic packaging have also forced companies to assess other options.

Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) said it was "delighted" with the WRAP trial results. The firm produced 75m bottles containing 25 per cent rPET for a range of its most popular soft drinks.

"We believe that the trial has demonstrated that recycled material is a viable option for CCE, both in terms of quality and energy consumption,"​ said Martin Rodgers, group rPET project manager.

"We would like to continue to use rPET and are currently working with our supply partners to assess if there is sufficient material available to make this feasible."

There were similar results at Marks & Spencers, which trialled 150m packs containing rPET and said recycled material would be a "key part of our strategy"​ going forward. Boots, meanwhile, said it would look to increase rPET content in packaging after a successful trial in its Ingredients range.

Research showed that consumers and customers had reacted well to the trial, reflecting growing environmental concerns among mainstream shoppers in Britain.

Marks & Spencer said 96 per cent of customers asked thought the rPET was a good idea, with 85 per cent saying it made them feel better about shopping at its stores.

WRAP said the positive feedback from such big name firms was a major breakthrough for plastics recycling in the UK.

"This is the first time that major brand names have come together to investigate the potential for using rPET in such high profile, high volume product lines,"​ said Peter Skelton, the group's account manager for brands and suppliers.

Any move towards greater use of recycled packaging will also depend heavily on production costs and logistics, however.

WRAP said it had seen a general shift in favour of rPET. It added that high oil prices, averaging around $68 per barrel at the start of this week, had narrowed the traditional price gap between virgin plastic packaging and recycled varieties.

The group added more capacity will also be needed if there is to be a widespread uptake of rPET, although it welcomed plans to up Britain's capacity to reprocess used PET in 2007.

New requirements set by the European Commission last year have roughly doubled packaging recycling targets for the 25 EU member states. By the end of 2008 a minimum of 60 per cent of packaging waste must be recovered or incinerated, while between 55 and 80 per cent of packaging waste must be recycled.

The original Commission regulations lifted packaging waste recycling in the UK from just below 50 per cent at the end of 2004, from around 27 per cent in 1997, according to UK government figures.

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