WRAP plastics update

6th August 2012

On pack recycling label:

With the 150th signatory waiting in the wings, the On Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme is going from strength to strength. The OPRL is led by the British Retail Consortium and driven by a steering group including WRAP, Heinz, Sainsburys, Waitrose and B&Q. It is the first global scheme for a recycling message to consumers and is being replicated in the US and Australia.


Drawing heavily on WRAP research, the OPRL aims to help drive increased quality of materials by explaining to consumers which items of packaging can and cannot be recycled. To date, the label is being used on over 75,000 product lines including The Co-operative Food, AG Barr, The Economist and Britvic. Read more about the case studies here: www.wrap.org.uk/oprl.


Thanks to WRAP guidance on how to undertake and communicate collections of plastics, increasing numbers of local authorities are able to collect plastic packaging. In the UK we currently recycle around 50% of plastic bottles and just 10-15% of mixed plastics, so there is still progress to be made.


To help drive further recycling, a new label was launched in 2011 for plastic films, encouraging consumers to recycle these via collection points at the front of many retailers. In order to increase quality, the new label can only be used on films which meet the following criteria: polyethylene only; no paper labels attached; no oily food residue; non-metallised; non-oxo or biodegradable; and inking that accounts for no more than 5% weight of the overall packaging. The criteria covers products from bakery, breakfast cereal, household goods, grocery produce, multi-pack shrink film and more recently newspaper and magazine wrap. Download the fact sheet on how to measure ink levels in order to be in line with OPRL guidelines here: www.wrap.org.uk/oprl


Film reprocessing technologies:

Alongside the introduction of the OPRL film label, WRAP has investigated the opportunities for developing the film reprocessing market in the UK, including best practice collection schemes in Europe and developments in film reprocessing technologies. Read the full report here: http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/understanding-reprocessing-technologies-and-collection-systems-plastic-films


Developments to the business case for recycling Polypropylene (PP) packaging waste to produce food grade material:

Followers of WRAP research in this area will know that since 2008 we have been working with industry, brands and retailers to determine the viability of food grade PP reprocessing. Recent research shared with brands and retailers earlier this year shows positive developments towards a solution. This work includes:


·         Polypropylene packaging (PP) market data

We made an assessment of the UK market for PP packaging and estimated the amount of this material which could be available for UK based re-processing. Our report shows that increasing recycling rates of non-bottle rigid plastic packaging to the same level as the current recycling rate for bottles (circa 50%) would create an additional 47,000 - 72,000 tonnes of food-use PP packaging material available for recycling back into food grade material each year in the UK.


The report also provides a breakdown of the PP packaging market by type and discusses key aspects of PP packaging and their impact on food grade recyclability. Read the full report here: www.wrap.org.uk/foodpp


·         Decontamination of PP packaging waste

We carried out decontamination trials to test whether the PP recovery process identified in previous research could produce clean enough material from real UK household PP packaging waste for it to meet food grade regulations.  We then manufactured sample packaging items such as noodle pots and tubs using recycled PP from this process and food grade testing was carried out. This work demonstrated that rPP could be used in a wide range of food packaging and that the process is economically viable. No specific issues with species/chemicals from In-Mould Labels (IMLs) or direct printing inks were found. However, WRAP is carrying out further analysis to confirm whether packaging decorated with direct printing inks and in mould labels meet the EU regulations for food contact. Read the full report here:  www.wrap.org.uk/foodpp


·         Sorting recycled food grade PP

Separating PP packaging used for food applications from that used in non-food applications is a key piece of the jigsaw. According to EU regulations food grade recycled PP must be made of at least 99% of packaging that was previously used with food. This project showed that an automated marking and detection technique could be developed to identify food contact plastic packaging in recycling plants. Read the full report here:  www.wrap.org.uk/foodpp


This research included using lasers to identify diffraction gratings in packaging which have the potential to identify PP previously used for food packaging. Our initial work on this technique can be found in our proof of concept report:  www.wrap.org.uk/foodpp

WRAP is continuing the development of the diffraction grating technique and we aim to produce a demonstration sorting unit and test its ability to sort a range of packaging marked with diffraction gratings.


·         Next steps

WRAP is carrying our further research and development work to enable food grade rPP to be used in new packaging commercially. This includes developing the most promising sorting techniques identified in phase 3 and carrying out additional testing of decontaminated rPP to further assess its suitability to produce a food grade material. We hope to provide further updates on this work in Spring 2013.


Sophie Dyer

PR Officer
01295 819695