Eight “problematic plastics” targeted for “elimination” by the end of 2020

WRAP, the resource efficiency body that oversees The UK Plastics Pact, has today (25 June) published a list of eight “problematic or unnecessary” single-use plastics that Pact members are expected to remove from shelves by the end of 2020.

The eight for “elimination” are accompanied by a second list of nineteen plastic items which are to be prioritised for action to tackle problems associated with them by 2025.

It’s aimed the outcome will be a reduction in the amount of plastic on shop shelves, a reduction in demand for virgin plastic and avoiding up to 1 tonne of Co2 per tonne that is recycled.

The eight for elimination:

  1. Disposable plastic cutlery
  2. All polystyrene packaging
  3. Cotton buds with plastic stems
  4. Plastic stirrers
  5. Oxo-degradables that break down creating microplastics
  6. Plastic straws
  7. Disposable plastic plates and bowls
  8. PVC packaging

In many cases, plastic may be the best material choice from an environmental perspective. In these cases, we need to ensure that the plastic can be and is recycled

In addition, nineteen single use plastic items and materials are to be actively investigated with UK Plastics Pact members. These include:

  1. Plastic bags – avoidable and limited film recycling.
  2. Plastic film packaging – crisps, fruit and vegetable film packaging.
  3. Multi-layer non-recyclable plastics – pouches not widely recycled.
  4. Multi-pack rings for canned drinks
  5. Multi-veg/fruit net bags
  6. Multi-buy bulk (secondary) wrapping
  7. PVC cling film
  8. Bottle tops/caps
  9. Single-use drinks bottles
  10. Non-recyclable coloured plastics – including carbon black plastic (WRAP is encouraging members to have this issue resolved by the end of 2019).
  11. Fruit & veg punnets/trays
  12. Internal plastic trays
  13. Disposable plastic cups
  14. Fruit/veg stickers – contaminates compost, not recycled.
  15. Plastic cup lids (hot beverage cups)
  16. Plastic coffee pods
  17. Milk and salad dressing jiggers, single serving pots and sachets Tear off tamper evident strips on containers
  18. Teabags – can contain or be made from non-degradable plastic.

Defining “problematic”

WRAP today has also published its definition of what is meant as “problematic” or “unnecessary” plastics, which relies on the following criteria:

  • Where it is avoidable, or a re-usable alternative is available.
  • When it cannot be recycled, or it hampers the recycling process.
  • When it is commonly littered and pollutes the environment.

Solving these problems will require collaboration and effort from all businesses and involve a range of actions such as considering re-fills, improved packaging design and optimising recycling, WRAP says.

A key element is also ensuring that citizens are both motivated to recycle, and are clear on what can be recycled and how to recycle it.

WRAP warns however, in seeking to overcome the problems with these plastics, any “unintended consequences” that could lead to further global warming must be avoided.

Plastics targets

76 businesses, representing the whole of the value chain, including those collectively responsible for 85% of plastic packaging sold through supermarkets, are signed up to achieve the four UK Plastics Pact targets by 2025:

  • Target One – Take actions to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging items through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery models.
  • Target Two – 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  • Target Three – 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
  • Target Four – 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

Peter Maddox, director WRAP: “We know that more people than ever are concerned about the impact of plastics. The fundamental way industry can support this public desire is by addressing the issues that lead to plastic packaging being problematic.

So, for every item of packaging we need to consider whether plastic is the right material choice, or indeed if packaging is required at all. In many cases, plastic may be the best material choice from an environmental perspective.

“In these cases, we need to ensure that the plastic can be and is recycled. The items listed today are priorities for UK Plastics Pact members, and the onus is on those members to implement changes, urgently.”

WRAP will now be developing individual action plans with UK Plastics Pact members to ensure that progress is made on this longer list as quickly as possible.

In addition these lists will be kept under constant review by WRAP to ensure the target of eliminating problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging is met by 2025

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