Fmcg giants Mars and Nestlé have teamed up with Taylors of Harrogate and Ella’s Kitchen to crack down on flexible packaging waste.
Dubbing themselves ‘the Flexible Packaging Consortium’ (FPC), the group of four suppliers has enlisted recycling specialists Suez to analyse the extent of flexible packaging waste – such as crisp packets, bread bags and petfood pouches – in the UK and explore solutions.
Some 215 billion items of flexible packaging are placed on the market every year, yet less than 20% of local authorities collect any form of plastic film or flexible packaging for recycling. Nearly all of it is sent to energy recovery or landfill after use, according to the FPC.
It was “only by collaborating across the value chain that we can have a real impact on the potential to recycle these trickier materials,” said Taylors product sustainability specialist Kathryn Patchett.
Ella’s Kitchen CEO Mark Cuddigan added: “We strongly believe that business has the power to be a force for good in society… we hope our work not only goes to helping to improve the recycling of all flexible packaging in the UK, but also inspires more cross-sector collaboration on sustainability initiatives.”
The FPC this week launched a report with an eye to providing a roadmap for fighting the problem, and is calling on businesses to join its work. Many of its findings have also been handed to Defra.
The research “clearly identified that if collected, flexible plastic packaging could be sorted and recycled and that emerging chemical recycling technologies show great promise to deliver higher levels of closed-loop recycling”, and found that “for many of the options for collection and treatment, costs were equal to or less expensive than placement in landfill or energy-from-waste”.
It also outlines a “significant opportunity to synchronise the introduction of flexible plastic packaging with the removal of deposit return scheme materials from kerbside collections between 2023 and 2026”.
There was “no reason why the UK should not be able to follow practice in some EU countries and collect flexible plastic packaging for recycling”, it concluded.