PET plastic bottles

Some of the UK’s biggest bottled water suppliers have joined forces for an initiative to eliminate plastic packaging waste from their supply chains ahead of the government’s 2042 target.

Companies including Nestlé Waters, Danone Waters, Lucozade Ribena Suntory and Highland Spring will convene next week with retailers, campaign groups and NGOs for the first workshop of Future of Plastic Packaging, to agree on a collaborative strategy for dealing with unnecessary plastic.

Devised over the past six months by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), the programme is funded by the participating businesses. It hopes to set out “an ambitious roadmap” to help the UK soft drinks industry “get on the front foot and work towards eliminating all avoidable plastic waste”.

The meeting on 27 March in Cambridge will begin the process using road-mapping methodology created by the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing to eliminate competing views over how to handle plastic waste and agree on “what the right path to the future looks like”. Planning will take into consideration factors including available technology, costs and the requirements of stakeholders.

Many businesses were taking action to address the problem of plastic, said CISL policy director Eliot Whittington. “But we currently lack a strategic vision for the soft drinks supply chain in the UK. That is why this multi-stakeholder group has come together.”

Les Montgomery, chief executive of Highland Spring, warned there were “changes ahead for the soft drinks industry. It is critical that we plan our future and look at the challenges collaboratively.”

Collaboration between the soft drinks industry and government would “improve the recyclability of our products, encourage consumers to recycles and make littering a thing of the past” said Michelle Norman, head of corporate affairs at Lucozade Ribena Suntory.

Future of Plastic Packaging is open to all stakeholders in the UK soft drinks supply chain. Its launch comes amid rising concerns about the impact of plastic on the environment. This week alone, tests revealing plastic in “brand after brand” of bottled water triggered a review by the World Health Organisation, and the Foresight Future of the Sea Report for the UK government warned that the amount of plastic in the ocean is set to triple in a decade unless litter is curbed.

In January, Theresa May announced her 25 Year Environment Plan “to leave our environment in a better state than we found it” and eliminate avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042.