Our determination to tackle flexible plastics is totally inflexible
Roughly a 2 minute read
The scale of the problem
There are approximately – take a deep breath – 215,000,000,000 items of flexible plastic used for packaging every year in the UK. Only a minority of councils currently collect them. And only a small percentage of them are ever recycled.
“Flexible plastic” is the term used to describe the really bendy stuff. Things like sweet wrappers and crisp packets. And, closer to home, what we call coffee film, overwrap and envelopes. The material often plays an important role for the product that it contains and protects; and a viable alternative may not yet be available.
The Flexible Packaging Consortium
That’s why, 18 months ago, we became co-founders of The Flexible Packaging Consortium. Our partners in the venture are Ella’s Kitchen, Mars, Nestlé and SUEZ, the waste and recycling experts. We’re working together to increase flexible packaging recycling in the UK. The first year of the venture was all about gathering data. We looked at what materials are out there and how they could be collected and recycled.
Just out: our 2021 report
All this work is summarised in the report we’ve just published. This makes a number of conclusions, which include:
1. Technology is improving all the time. So if unrecyclable flexible plastics are collected now, in the near future they may – as has happened with other materials – become recyclable.
2. When the deposit return scheme (DRS) begins, plastic bottles will no longer be put in household recycling bins. This will free up space in recycling lorries; space that could accommodate flexible plastics.
In other words, collecting and recycling flexible plastics is both practicable and affordable. Our recommendation is that this could – and should – happen from 2023, coinciding with other changes affecting household recycling.
““This report is a significant milestone in our shared aim to make it easier for households to recycle their flexible plastics. At Taylors, we’re working hard on the sustainability of every aspect of our products and packaging from the inside out. But it’s only by collaborating across the value chain that we can have a real impact on the potential to recycle these trickier materials.””
Time to collaborate
We’re currently working with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to see how flexible plastics can be included in household recycling collections from as early as 2023.
We hope that our report will act as a catalyst, prompting others to push for change. Businesses can look at the evidence of the Government consultation in the spring and add their voices to those asking for these materials to be collected from 2023.
For households, there’s lots of information on what your local council can collect at recylenow.com. If your local council doesn’t yet collect flexibles, then you could write to them to ask for collection. In the meantime, you can often take flexible plastics like plastic carrier bags, bread bags and frozen food bags to the local supermarket for recycling.
Read more about the collection and recycling of flexible plastics here.
Last updated 4th July 2022