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Plastic alternatives ‘not the answer to pollution’

In our latest Wrap-Up ... Plastic alternatives ‘not the answer to pollution’. Packaging spend is on the increase. Recyclability by Design guidelines revised. The Environment Act is now UK law. Supermarkets pledge to halve basket impact. And more …



Replacing plastic with alternative packaging materials is not the answer to pollution and may even worsen industry’s environmental impact. That’s the warning from WWF’s sustainable materials specialist Paula Chin.

She explained that, while the war on single-use items is necessary, misperceptions about the role of plastics abound.


Spending on packaging by consumer packaged goods brands has been increasing over the past two years - and will continue to do so over the next two years, according to a recent study.

Four major trends are believed to be driving the spending on packaging:

  1. Evolving sustainability goals.
  2. Accelerating shifts to e-commerce.
  3. Brand owners vying for consumer attention.
  4. Continuation of SKU proliferation.


KELLOGG’S is to trial an entirely paper-based liner in its Corn Flakes range because it is currently easier to recycle than plastic.

Chris Silcock, Kellogg’s UK and Ireland MD, said: “We would prefer plastic liners to be accepted in home recycling as our data tells us that they are better for the planet over the full life cycle of the packaging, but this trial ensures we have an alternative.”


Design guidelines revised

RECOUP have revised their Recyclability by Design guidelines to help designers and manufacturers maximise the recyclability of plastic packaging products.

The guidance covers a variety of polymers, with tables summarising best practice for the main component of the packaging and other components such as lids and labels.

Kerb appeal

The plastics recycling member-based charity earlier this year highlighted the need for plastics films and flexibles recycling solutions, particularly at the kerbside.

Crunch time for packaging

Plus, under the heading “It’s Crunch Time for Plastic Packaging Recycling”, RECOUP has published its 2021 UK Household Plastics Collection Survey, which analyses the collection of plastics for recycling from local authorities.

Returning to good habits

A new research project has been instigated by recycler Enviroo to understand how people can be better incentivised to recycle outside of the home.

Enviroo plans to develop a customised reverse vending machine to collect consumers’ recyclable waste. The project will investigate how best to encourage consumers to use the facility habitually.

The research will also explore the feasibility of a multi-disciplinary product deposit return scheme (DRS) encompassing a wider range of packaging.

Seeking the Holy Grail

The Holy Grail project from Procter and Gamble revealed that digital watermarks have the best impact on accurate sorting and high-quality recycling.

Now, technical director Gian DeBelder has been talking about the next phase, called Holy Grail 2.0, and how P&G aims to transform its global operations to be carbon neutral for the next decade


The Environment Act is now UK law containing key legally binding environmental targets covering waste and recycling, clean air, nature, and water.

For waste and recycling, it aims to incentivise greater recycling, encourage businesses to create sustainable packaging, make household recycling easier, and stop the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries.

In the EU, the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive (PPWD) is currently under revision. Earlier this year, CEFLEX’s Graham Houlder looked at how modifications could affect flexibles. Europen has indicated that the proposal will likely be concluded in Spring 2022. Watch this space.


The bosses of five of the UK’s biggest supermarkets have promised to halve the environmental impact of a weekly food shop by the end of this decade.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Co-op and M&S will work with the World Wide Fund for Nature to halve:

  • The amount of global warming that shopping baskets cause.
  • The forests that are cut down to fill the baskets.
  • The impact of the agriculture and seafood in baskets


Waste away with new packaging

A new type of recyclable meat packaging tray could save thousands of tonnes in plastic waste. Designed by a student at Swansea University, the tray does not have a separate piece of absorbent plastic padding underneath.

Instead, it allows moisture to seep into and be retained within specially designed wells. The packaging can then be washed under a tap, making it safe to recycle with other household items.

Also …


Report 1 - Plastic usage warning

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s annual report shows a reduction in virgin plastic usage, which will fall faster by 2025. It reveals that progress has primarily been driven by recycling but cautions that more focus is needed in eliminating single-use packaging.

However, that may not be the whole story, and Footprint has warned the “foundation’s forecasts to 2025 may well turn out to be the stuff of fairy tales”.

Report 2 – Pact progress needs to quicken

The UK Plastics Pact Annual Report 2020/21 has revealed significant progress against each of its targets but with much more required to be done. Highlights include:

  • 46% reduction in problematic and unnecessary plastic items since 2018.
  • 70% of plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable.
  • 52% of plastic packaging is recycled, up from 44% in 2018.
  • Average recycled content is 18%, doubling from 9% in 2018.

Report 3 – Essential action list

Down Under, the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) has launched a major new report outlining actions required to achieve the 2025 National Packaging Targets.

APCO’s CEO, Brooke Donnelly, and sustainability consultant Dr Helen Lewis spoke to Packaging News about Australia's progress so far.

Report 4 – Claims must be verified

A new report, commissioned by the Standards Council of Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada, identifies key considerations to verify recycled content claims in plastic products.

Its aim is to inform actions in support of Canada’s target of achieving at least 50% recycled content in plastic products, where applicable, by 2030

From the KM team … stay safe, keep up the good work, and value plastic.

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