ONE Cheltenham Borough Council kerbside collections 1

A pioneering scheme by major food companies to set up kerbside collections for thousands of tonnes of plastic has run into difficulty because of the financial squeeze on local authorities.

The Grocer has learnt a third of the councils due to take part in the scheme have dropped out, blaming the impact of the financial crisis.

Fmcg giants Unilever, Mondelez, Nestlé and PepsiCo are among those who launched the Flexible Plastics Collection pilot in May last year, in a trial working with authorities to ensure the recycling of ‘flexible’ plastics such as plastic bags, confectionery wrappers, foil and plastic film.

This week more than 6,500 homes in Maldon, Essex, became the third pilot area for the scheme, backed by organisations such as Defra and Wrap, which is a spin-off from the landmark Flexible Plastic Fund launched a year earlier. The Essex pilot follows previous launches in Cheltenham and South Gloucestershire.

The companies are hoping to provide a model for how such plastics can become part of household collections when a consistent model is rolled out in England from 2027 under government plans, with flexible plastics currently making up almost a quarter of consumers’ plastic packaging.

It was hoped nine local authorities would join the trial, which is due to run until 2025, but three have pulled out.

Gareth Morton, discovery manager at Ecosurety, a co-founder of the project, said local authorities were “strapped for cash” and had many competing priorities when it came to investment which was making it harder to get them involved.

Meanwhile Morton said the fund had also encountered capacity problems in material recycling facilities.

However, he said despite the “huge complexity” involved in creating an effective system of collection, it was vital central and local government continued to work alongside the industry.

“Nobody is in any doubt that this is a huge challenge because we’ve never tried it at scale before,” he said.

“But if we can get it right, this project will benefit communities right across England.”