Plastic Film Packaging

Plastic film can be made with different polymers, each with unique properties, that make it ideal for certain applications, such as packaging, carrier bags, labels, building construction, agriculture and landscaping.

Types of film

The main types of polymers used to manufacture films are polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). Plastic films can be clear or coloured, printed or plain, single or multi-layered, and these variations influence its recyclability. 

It is estimated that some 1.2 million tonnes of plastic film from packaging arises in the UK waste stream every year. Of this, around two thirds are post-consumer (i.e. from household) and one third from commercial, industrial and agricultural sources. 

Collection and recycling of household plastic film packaging guide

Guidance has been developed to inform local authorities and other collectors of the challenges associated with collecting, sorting and recycling household plastic film. 

Where local authorities may be in a position to consider adding plastic film to collections, they should confirm with their MRF operator whether plastic film can be effectively sorted from other materials and whether markets exist for the sorted film plastic. Where both of these criteria cannot be met, local authorities are advised not to target plastic films in their kerbside collections and instead encourage residents to make use of Front of Store Recycling (FOSR) points or other bring-based facilities.

Download the guide >>

Plastic film collection, separation and reprocessing resources

The collection, separation and reprocessing of household plastic film is not widely implemented in the UK; as a consequence end markets for the recycled material is limited. In 2011/12 13% of local authorities provided kerbside collections of films (in addition to those collecting carrier bags only). Alternative collection of plastic films, including carrier bags and some polyethylene packaging, is also available and provided by most retailers, at front of store collection points.

There are other types of flexible plastics like laminated pouches and bags, that are not currently recycled in the UK. They are used for the packaging of consumer goods such as food, drink and pet foods. Degradable and biodegradable plastics are also becoming common and are being applied as a substitute to fossil-based plastics, for packaging and other applications.

Recycling post-consumer film trials >>
End markets for recycled household plastic film >>
Front of store plastic film collection retailers >>
Recycling of aluminium plastic laminated tubes and pouches >>
Optimisation of pallet wrapping film use >>

Where next?

Want to know more about plastics? Take a look at our reports, guides, tools and case studies for further information:

Reports >>
Guides >>
Tools >>
Case studies >>