The UK Plastics Pact deserves our support – and more action
CalendarJune 6, 2019
The UK Plastics Pact deserves our support – and more action
By Roger Whitten

It’s now a full year since WRAP launched the UK Plastics Pact in association with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s global New Plastics Economy initiative. As WRAP publishes its progress report I’m happy to award the pact a solid 7/10 mark – a good start but still plenty more to be done.

Marcus Glover, CEO of the Government-funded WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), acknowledged from the outset that the pact has a monumental task on its hands. Four ambitious targets have been set for 2025, in the hope and expectation that collaboration across the entire plastics supply chain will deliver meaningful change. More than 40 businesses, including major food, drink and non-food brands signed up in May 2018, along with manufacturers, retailers, plastics re-processors and packaging suppliers.


Plastic Pact – four key targets

You can follow the link above to find details of progress so far on the four targets:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models
  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

There is some heartening stuff in the report: M&S replacing plastic cutlery with FSC certified wood alternatives; Lidl removing all black plastic from primary fruit and veg packaging; Boots adding front of pack recycling messages to toiletries; Highland Spring launching PET bottles with 100% recycled content.

Like I’ve said, it’s all good, it’s all positive, and it’s all part of a growing commitment to get to grips with the really big problem that I refuse to stop banging on about – 25% of plastic is currently single-use. Plastic’s not the problem, humans are the problem because of what we choose to do with it.

In my view, the UK Plastic Pact’s roadmap to 2025 would be made a whole lot easier if the Government stepped in to help unify the recycling policies and procedures of the country’s local authorities. Put plainly, there’s currently far too much disparity and confusion, which means that the general public simply don’t know what they can or cannot recycle.

Too much plastic in landfill

The confusion would be comical, if it didn’t mean that far too much recyclable plastic is ending up in landfill. Even I have fallen foul of it. I didn’t realise, for instance, that if I wash out a yoghurt pot it will be recycled. But if I don’t, it will be considered waste and it will be sent for landfill. That’s madness.

Another big boost would be further investment in pyrolysis – the process of decomposing materials at really high temperatures. There are currently only three pyrolysis plants in the UK, and I’d love to see many more. If plastic is subjected to pyrolysis, then heat is created that can be used to generate electricity or a fuel similar to diesel. For me, it’s a no-brainer – and the Royal Navy agrees. Its new £6b aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has two pyrolysis machines, which recycle 100% of the ship’s waste – including plastic.

If it’s good enough for the navy, it should be good enough for the rest of us. I’m hopeful that private investment and Government mindset can align so that we see more pyrolysis plants sooner rather than later. If you agree – then please spread the word. The UK Plastic Pact is a great initiative, but it needs all the help it can get from all of us.

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