The UK Plastics Pact - Member progress report

21st May 2019

The business members of The UK Plastics Pact collectively make or sell 85% of the plastic packaging used in UK supermarkets. Together they hold the key to tackling plastic pollution. One year on those business members are delivering systemic change.

In brief
The new report details progress towards all four targets
It details the pledges of members for future action
This is the first report on progress which will be updated twice a year.

Highlights of progress 

First year progress

The UK Plastics Pact is a unique coalition of more than 120 businesses, governments, local authorities and organisations committed to tackling plastic pollution by transforming the way we make, use and dispose of plastic packaging in the UK. 
As part of this, the Pact has set four ambitious targets by 2025 to be met by those business members of the Pact from the manufacturing and retail sector (currently around 50) who make or sell products in plastic packaging in the UK.
To mark the one year anniversary of The UK Plastics Pact, a selection of those members have come together to showcase the actions that they have taken so far and the future commitments that they are making to deliver against the targets. 
The report excludes information from those members or supporters who are not delivering against the targets, but who support the aims of the Pact in other ways. These include, for example, trade associations, governments, and NGOs. 
The report demonstrates how collaboration across the entire plastics supply chain is delivering real change. Some examples include: 
Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models. 
  • M&S has replaced plastic cutlery with alternatives made from FSC certified wood and swapped plastic straws for paper versions. Waitrose has committed to stop selling plastic cutlery by the end of this year. 
  • Most retailers have removed plastic straws from sale and in cafes – Morrisons estimates that this removes approximately 30 tonnes of plastic and 65m straws per year.  
  • Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, M&S and Morrisons are trialling the removal of plastic packaging across a number of produce lines, to understand where plastic can be removed without impacting food waste.  
  • Tesco, Asda and Aldi combined have removed almost 700 tonnes of non-recyclable polystyrene pizza bases by introducing a cardboard alternative. 
100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • Members have reported widespread progress on removing unrecyclable black plastic from their packaging. For example, M&S phased out 1700 tonnes of black plastic packaging, Lidl has removed all black plastic packaging from primary fruit and vegetable packaging, and Ocado have removed it from 83 product lines, representing 90% of Ocado Own Brand lines that had black plastic. Other members, including Unilever, are working in collaboration with waste management companies to introduce a new type of black pigment for its personal care bottles that can be detected by infra-red scanners and therefore recycled. 
  • Morrisons has moved polystyrene egg boxes into paper pulp – saving 294 tonnes of unrecyclable plastic.  
  • Unilever has made all PG Tips tea bags biodegradable when placed in your food waste caddy.  
  • Several supermarkets now welcome the use of customers’ own containers at fresh food counters.  
  • Reckitt Benckiser has removed the metal components from Cillit Bang, Vanish and Dettol cleaning triggers, as this is problematic for the recycling process.  
70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
  • Members have reported significantly enhanced communications to citizens about what can be recycled across the board. All retailer members and a large number of brands are signed up to the On Pack Recycling Labelling scheme to provide clear messaging on what can or cannot be recycled. 
  • Boots has run a trial to understand the effectiveness of adding front of pack recycling messages on their bathroom toiletries.  
  • Hovis now include a recycling logo on the front of a range of bread bags to let citizens know that this packaging can be recycled with carrier bags at larger stores.  
  • Coca-Cola has introduced a “Please Recycle Me” message on over 500 million of its bottle tops each year, and Britvic included a “Please Recycle” message on its recent Robinsons Fruit Creations TV advert. 
  • Pepsico (Walker’s Crisps) launched the UK’s first nationwide crisp packet recycling scheme in partnership with TerraCycle.  
30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging 
  • Danone has reported that all evian 75cl, 1L and 1.5L bottles produced for the UK market now contain 50% recycled content.  
  • innocent have achieved a minimum of 30% recycled content in their bottles, with their smoothie bottles now containing 50%. 
  • Ecover and Highland Spring Group have launched PET bottles with 100% recycled content. 

Systemic change  

Change is happening 

Of the many actions being taken by members, unrecyclable plastics like black plastics and polystyrene are disappearing from UK supermarket shelves. Members have also started removing unnecessary single-use plastics such as straws and plastic cutlery from their shelves.  


Tough decisions lie ahead

The progress of members to date is just the tip of the iceberg. The report also captures pledges members have made for action against the targets in the near future. Some members are looking at refillable alternatives for their plastic packaging – particularly for cleaning products – so that the primary packaging is reusable. Further efforts to help citizens recycle more and recycle better also feature. 

These actions will require some tough decisions to be made. 



Spearheading a global drive to transform the plastics system

The UK Plastics Pact is leading a global wave of change in the way we make, use, re-use and dispose of plastic. The UK’s model for change is being replicated in other countries to form a powerful global movement as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative.