A pact between the country's biggest supermarkets and the On Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme means UK shoppers will be able to recycle thin plastic packaging such as bread bags and cereal liners for the first time
PAFA (The Packaging and Films Association) said the scheme now makes it possible for the recycling of up to 645,000 tons of plastics packing films.
“Plastic film packaging helps save food waste by protecting and preserving products and we have always had the technology to recycle it,” said Barry Turner, PAFA CEO. “Now, through this initiative by major retailers, the consumer has a real opportunity to boost plastic film recycling by placing film wrappings.”
The trade group praised the explosion in recycling infrastructure by supermarkets which has seen around 4,500 bins introduced to collect plastic bags at stores throughout the UK.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said thin plastic films account for 43 per cent of all plastic household waste. By comparison plastic bottles account for 32 per cent at 480,000 tonnes.
Thin plastic film is fully recyclable but until now most people have had no means of recycling it, it said.
"Retailers are leading the way in helping customers minimise waste through measures such as reducing the weight of packaging and providing consistent on-pack information,” said Bob Gordon, head of environment at the BRC and director of On-Pack Recycling Label Ltd.
He added that stores already had facilities to recycle carrier bags and could now double the effectiveness of these units by taking plastic films as well.
The BRC-led initiative and is backed by the majority of the UK’s leading supermarkets - ASDA, the Co-op, Morrisons, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose.
“In spite of the fact that local authorities are reluctant to collect thin packaging films from households or at the kerbside, this retailer initiative now means that the opportunity to recover the value from lightweight protective plastic film is within everyone’s reach,” PAFA chief Turner added. “It means that no-one should worry about the environmental credentials of plastic packaging in the future if they stick to the practice of reduce, re-use and recycle”.