FMCG industry and retail leaders join forces to boost flexible plastic recycling in UK

By Anthony Myers

- Last updated on GMT

The Fund is designed to drive progress towards household collection of flexible plastic for recycling. Pic: Mondelēz Internationa
The Fund is designed to drive progress towards household collection of flexible plastic for recycling. Pic: Mondelēz Internationa

Related tags recyclable packaging

Five of the UK’s largest branded manufacturers: Mars UK, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever, have collaborated to form a £1m ($1.41m) fund to help make flexible plastic recycling economically viable for recyclers and easier for consumers.

The Flexible Plastic Fund is a UK industry first and is being led by producer compliance scheme, Ecosurety, with support from environmental charity, Hubbub.

In collaboration with manufacturers, retailers and recyclers, the Fund intends to improve flexible plastic recycling and reduce plastic pollution by giving the material a stable value.

This will in turn increase the supply of recycled plastic enabling industry to become more ‘circular’ and meet the forthcoming UK plastic packaging tax obligations.

The scheme will also help to create much needed jobs and infrastructure to make flexible plastic recycling a financially sustainable system in the UK.

Robbie Staniforth Head of Innovation and Policy at Ecosurety said: “Historically the UK recycling system has not provided enough motivation to recycle flexible plastics. By creating a sustainable market for this material, longer term improvements can be made to ensure the flexible plastic that remains necessary for packaging is reliably recycled and eventually contributes to a circular economy, thereby tackling plastic pollution.

“We hope that by boosting this infrastructure, government and local authorities will be motivated to quickly facilitate flexible plastic recycling in the UK by making it easy for consumers to recycle via household collections in the future.”

Strong consumer demand for recycling

New research from the University of Sheffield suggests there is strong consumer demand for recycling flexible plastic with 95% of participants saying they would be willing to recycle their flexible plastics.

Trewin Restorick CEO and co-founder of Hubbub said: “The Flexible Plastic Fund is a really important initiative to show that flexible plastics can be recycled and be financially sustainable. People are ready and willing to recycle their flexible plastics - we just have to make the infrastructure work. Collaboration is key to making this a success and we are urging more manufacturers to invest in the Fund, more retailers to collect flexible plastic for recycling and more recyclers to recycle flexible plastics.”

Leading supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have already signed up to support the initiative by hosting flexible plastic collection points in selected stores across the UK – and several other major retailers are set to follow suit.

As a result, recycling this material will become increasingly accessible to consumers, as they will be able to recycle all types of flexible plastic packaging with participating retailers.

Flexible plastics include plastic bags, wrappers, films, pouches, packets and sachets and is described as ‘plastic bags and wrapping’, ‘soft plastics’ or ‘flexible plastics’.

Louise Stigant, UK Managing Director, Mondelēz International, said: “Making our snacks sustainably and in the right way is at the heart of our purpose. Increasing the recyclability of our products and creating a circular economy so our packaging stays within the economy and not the environment is a priority for us. The Flexible Plastics Fund is an important step to ensuring packaging is collected, sorted and recycled in the UK. Meaningful change can only come when everyone collaborates, from companies, governments, waste management organisations to consumers​.”

The Fund will guarantee a minimum value of £100 per tonne of recycled product to incentivise recyclers to process flexible plastic. More details are available on the flexibleplasticfund.org.uk​ website.

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