The UK Plastics Pact - 100 days of progress

A trailblazing initiative 

Plastics have an important role to play, particularly in protecting our food. However, the current plastics system is failing. 

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move away from a linear plastics economy, where we take, make and dispose of plastic, towards a circular system where we capture the value of plastics material - keeping it in the economy and out of the environment.

100 days have passed since we launched The UK Plastics Pact; the unique, trailblazing collective action which brings together government, business and citizens to transform the plastic system and achieve that vision.

Chief Executive Marcus Gover reflects on a busy 100 days… 

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The Pact goes from strength to strength now totalling 85 members and supporters

 
We have had a fantastic response to the launch of the Pact.
 
Since launch, we have added around 20 new business members – the latest of which include Tulip and Boots – bringing the total to 64. Together, our business members are responsible for over 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold through UK supermarkets.
 
They are also joined by 22 supporting organisations, including from governments, NGOs, and trade bodies such as the British Plastics Federation, the Food and Drink Federation and the British Retail Consortium.
 
It brings the current total to 86. Combined with the more than 400 other businesses and organisations who have expressed an interest in The UK Plastics Pact, this is a powerful platform for change.
 
Click here for more details of members and what they have to say about the Pact. 
 

Meet The UK Plastics Pact Advisory Group 

The Pact’s Advisory Group will play a pivotal role in reviewing progress and keeping the Pact on track to 2025.

Advisory Group members:

  • Chair: Marcus Gover, Chief Executive, WRAP
  • James Bull – Head of Packaging, Tesco
  • Emma Cook – Senior Technical Manager, Ella’s Kitchen
  • Sander Defruyt – Lead, New Plastics Economy, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
  • Richard Kirkman - Chief Technology & Innovation Officer, Veolia UK & Ireland
  • Chris Preston – Deputy Director, Waste and Recycling, Defra
  • Paul Sherratt - Packaging innovation manager at ABP Food Group
  • Kinza Sutton - Marketing Manager - Plastipak Packaging Europe
  • Hilary Tanner – Advisor, Local Government Association (LGA)
  • Kevin Vyse - Packaging Technologist, Foods & Packaging Innovation Lead -  M&S
  • Louise Edge – European Campaign Coordinator, Greenpeace (although Greenpeace are not a member of the Pact, they are part of the Advisory Group in a ‘critical friend’ capacity)

One of the key outcomes of the first meeting in June was an action to develop a high-level roadmap with interim milestones to share with members so we can set expectations and chart progress towards reaching the 2025 targets. We will be working on this over the Summer.

“I was hugely impressed by the energy and commitment of the Advisory Group members during the inaugural meeting and look forward to working with them. It’s important that the Group is representative of all of those who can make a difference.  They provide the knowledge and ability to influence change right across the system.” Marcus Gover, WRAP 

“As a certified B Corporation, at Ella's Kitchen we believe deeply in the power of using business as a force for good. That’s why we want to play a key part in rethinking and transforming the way we use plastics in the UK. We’re proud to sit on the Advisory Group of the UK Plastics Pact, and are delighted that it’s already helping us to connect with other businesses and organisations who are committed to building a circular economy for plastics - as it is only through collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that we will be able to accelerate the change we need.”  Emma Cook, Ella's Kitchen

"The Plastics Pact is entering its next phase in which members need to act. It is up to us to continue working together to ensure this important and ground-breaking initiative achieves a transformation in plastics packaging - where materials are 100% recyclable without jeopardising the purpose which makes them so useful." Richard Kirkman, Veolia 

“We are proud to be members of the UK Plastics Pact Advisory Group and by making all packaging in Tesco recyclable or compostable, we are playing our part in transforming our relationship with plastic and packaging. In just three months, the pact has made great progress, but there is a lot to be done, particularly if we are to realise our ambition of creating a closed loop in packaging. Business and government must work together to help make it easier for customers to make more sustainable choices.” James Bull, Tesco 

Action from business - Collaborative Action Groups

The ‘engine' room of The UK Plastics Pact is the Collaborative Action Groups which have been set up to drive delivery of the Pact’s ambitious targets.

The groups are bringing together the key players to share and review evidence and agree the main  areas of work . This will lead to the setting up of a number of collaborative project activities and development of guidance which will ultimately enable the Pact’s members to implement change.

This is important, exciting and ground-breaking work. It's also challenging, and gets to the heart of fixing the complexities which will transform our current linear plastics system to the circular system we aspire to.

So far, we have convened the following groups looking at:

  • Eliminating unnecessary and problematic single-use plastics – definition, scope and implementation
  • Towards 100% recyclability – definition and guidance for what is recyclable, reusable and compostable
  • Films and flexibles recycling - develop and initiate a roadmap to recycle plastic films
  • Identifying measurement and reporting requirements for the Pact

Further Collaborative Action Groups will set up as required through the life of the Pact

“We have been delighted with the take-up of membership to our Collaborative Action Groups. Together, they bring a real depth of expertise and insight and cutting-edge thinking. This is important, ground-breaking work, and will help lay the foundations for making the targets and our ambition a reality.” Marcus Gover

We will be updating on progress as we go along.

 

Understanding plastic packaging and the language we use to describe it

As many businesses are now weighing up their options for plastics, there are a number of things to consider.

Functionality and cost are always at front of mind, but we also need to factor in the end of life options within the existing infrastructure.  

To support informed choices, we have produced a guide – Understanding plastic packaging and the language we use to describe it to provide clarity in this complex area. It outlines the materials used to make packaging, the way plastics can behave and a handy lexicon for the different terminologies, including bioplastics.

 

Our members taking action on plastics

Brands and retailers action includes:

Industry guidance. Action includes:

  • The British Plastics Federation (BPF) released a vision document intended to drive innovation and improve UK recycling rates
  • The Sustainable Restaurant Association has launched a guide to help hospitality businesses find viable alternatives to single-use plastics
  • Charpack published their White Paper: Sustainable Solutions to the Plastic Packaging Problem,  which can be downloaded here

 

Action from government 

Proposed reform of the packaging regulations: UK Government

Earlier in the year, WRAP, along with INCPEN and the Advisory Committee on Packaging, led a series of discussions with representatives from across the sector to look at how reform of the packaging regulation regime could help to reduce the environmental impact of the way we use and dispose of packaging, particularly plastic packaging.

There was broad support across the whole packaging value chain for radical change to the existing producer responsibility regime, with businesses clear that they are willing to pay more into the system to ensure it is adequately funded and effective.

A number of wide-ranging recommendations for reform of the current packaging regulations were subsequently presented to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove.

Says Marcus Gover: “Having that systemic year-on-year funding could be a game-changer and key to the success of The UK Plastics Pact – incentivising local authorities to collect plastics and supporting the investment in our own recycling infrastructure. I was encouraged by the Secretary of State’s response and his recognition that our recommendations would inform policy decision making. The need for government policy to underpin the commitments made by business will be key to us achieving the ambitious goals we have laid out in The UK Plastics Pact.”

 

Supporting innovation 

 
Innovation is fundamental to building a sustainable future for plastic. The announcement of the UK Government’s £20 million fund which aims to unlock innovation in plastic manufacturing and consumption patterns was a welcome contribution. 
 
We are delighted that WRAP will work with the UKRI to network and connect the fund with initiatives across business, government and the research and innovation community.
 

Wales - Creating circularity for plastics in Wales

 
The paper, which was launched by Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn at the Volvo Ocean Summit in Cardiff, looks at how a route map could help in improving the circularity of plastic in Wales.
 

Scotland 

The Scottish Government has already introduced the household recycling charter to simplify recycling and is committed to introducing a deposit return scheme.
 
Since launch, developments in Scotland include the announcement by Zero Waste Scotland  of £3m funding towards a new plastics recycling partnership which has the potential to recycle all plastics in Scotland and beyond.
 
 

Action by local authorities and the recycling sector – Consistency in collections

 
 
Improving consistency in the collection of plastic packaging across England, to make it easier for citizens to know what and how to recycle plastic, is an important focus for WRAP and for The UK Plastics Pact. 
 
We know that the current confusion is a significant barrier to recycling and urgently needs addressing. 
 
One important piece of work will be to address the complexity of plastic packaging which means currently there is a lot of variation.
 
We’re working on some research to help us understand the current baseline for the amount of plastic packaging collected from kerbside for recycling (by polymer type and by packaging format). 
 
Through the Pact we can use this information to target effective actions across the supply chain to both improve the quality, and increase the amount, of plastic packaging collected and ultimately recycled. 
 
 

Action by citizens – Reduce, re-use and recycle 

 
Ultimately, there is no single body, no single action which can work on its own to tackle the scourge of plastic pollution. We all have a part to play. And this includes all of us as citizens.
 
We want to provide people with the right information and motivation to, reuse and recycle and where possible to reduce their plastic packaging. 
 
Through Recycle Now, we developed a hard-hitting campaign aimed at encouraging consumers to recycle their plastic.
This year’s Recycle Week promises to be the biggest ever. Responding to the unprecedented public interest in sustainability issues, we will focus on recycling as part of the solution. Recycle Now will be running a national billboard campaign, supported with a week of creative communications.
 
It’s a brilliant opportunity to get involved. You can download our Do/Does campaign materials which are available now and ready to use.
 
If you’re a retailer or brand and would like to partner with us for Recycle Week, please email: PartnerEnquiries@wrap.org.uk
 
Future public campaigns as part of the Pact are also in the pipeline. 

In the news

Future of Packaging - The Times supplement

Turning off the plastics tap - UN Environment

The UK Plastics Pact and why it matters – Virgin

Plastic Fantastic – BBC Radio 4

Plastics Action – BBC

Food Unwrapped – C4

Plastic and the Packaging Conundrum – The Grocer webinar

 

If you are interested in The UK Plastics Pact, please check our website for how you can subscribe to our latest news or contact us on ukplasticspact@wrap.org.uk