Plastics 2020 (a campaign founded by the British Plastics Federation, the Packaging and Films Association, and PlasticsEurope) is adopting a work programme called PIRAP, the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan, and wants to develop it into a detailed agenda for action.
Adrian Whyle, senior resource efficiency manager, Plastics Europe, told FoodProductionDaily.com that sustainability strategies and efforts to increase recycling from food, beverage and packaging companies are having an effect.
More than lip service
“We’re seeing a lot of light-weighting of materials, recycled content, positive dialogues with retailers, and [companies] encouraging consumers to recycle. They’re always looking at packaging solutions that extend the shelf life of foods and bring new elements to play," Whyle said.
“They are doing a lot of valuable work, a lot of discussions I have are on how to make [products] recyclable and innovations – it’s far more than lip service.”
Another example of actions the industry is taking is investigating new grades of polymer that enhance performance and are recyclable, Whyle said.
He also believes that larger food companies can help drive the development of more recyclable products.
“A number of the major brands are taking a lead and that’s cascading down. If you’re a small manufacturer, you want to compete in the same market,” he said.
However, packagers have to consider recyclability in a wider context, Whyle said. For example, a producer may have to weigh up whether it is better to offer a piece of packaging that is recyclable, or one that can reduce food waste by offering extended shelf life.
UK is 'mid-field' for plastics recycling
Plastics 2020 was launched in the UK in 2009 to challenge the plastics industry, consumers, and government to step up resource efficiency and stop sending plastic materials to landfill.
PIRAP, an industry initiative originally led by recycling advocacy organisation WRAP, was formed to help the UK reach its recycling targets. The plastic packaging recycling targets set by the government in 2012 include increasing recycling from 32% in 2012 to 57% by 2017.
Whyle says the UK occupies a mid-table position in the EU, so to speak, when it comes to plastic recycling. Germany is one of the top-performing countries, but at the other end of the scale new member states need support and better infrastructure to improve recycling rates, he added.
“The UK needs to do a lot more, recycling rates are mid-field, a lot of plastics are going to landfill, and we have ambitious goals from DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs],” he said.
“That’s going to require a lot of concentrated effort by everyone in the chain to get there, and proposed [EU] legislation on waste targets is demanding as well.”