The UK Plastics Pact has published new guidance related to polymer types and features used to produce rigid plastic packaging.
The guidelines are intended to help achieve proposed recycling targets.
Details include a selection of plastics which are currently recyclable, intended to help reduce consumer confusion. The recommendations also outline material choices and colour selections for packaging designers.
Common uses for rigid packaging include bottles, pots, tubs and trays. The food trays are notoriously difficult to recycle, as many use standard carbon black colouring which is not consistently recognised by NIR (near infra-red) sorting systems used at many MRFs (material recycling facilities).
As such, the latest guidelines recommend that all rigid plastics packaging should be clear, which will help to improve recyclability and overall recycling rates.
Additionally, labels should be limited to 40% of the surface area.
The On-Pack Labelling Scheme (OPRL) is also expected to adopt the guidance when it launches new labelling for what is recyclable later this year.
Commenting on the new guidelines, Jane Bevis, chair of OPRL, said: “The public find plastics confusing and, with widespread concerns over irresponsible disposal and environmental pollution by plastic packaging, are increasingly condemning all plastic packaging as intolerable.
“But plastic packaging has a key role in protecting our environment, too – well-chosen polymers used in well-designed packaging are vital to reducing food waste and the resulting methane and other greenhouse gas emissions. So this hugely welcome guidance from the Plastics Pact is crucial in promoting a paradigm shift in packaging design, both food and non-food.”
The UK Plastics Pact is a key project of WRAP, the Waste and Resources Action Programme. The guidelines are intended to support outlined plastics recycling targets for 2025.
These targets include making 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable. Other goals include achieving a 70% recycling or composting target for all plastic packaging, and eliminating difficult-to-recycle or unnecessary single-use plastics.
Essentially, reducing the number of different plastics types will help reduce consumer confusion as to which plastics can be recycled (the goal is to make all plastics recyclable), which would also help to improve the percentage of plastics which actually are recycled once they reach a MRF.
The guidelines follow the June publication of eight core items which Plastics Pact participants are obliged to eliminate as quickly as possible (where possible by the end of 2020), including:
- disposable plastic cutlery
- all polystyrene packaging
- cotton buds with plastic stems
- plastic drinks stirrers
- oxo-degradables which break down into microplastics
- plastic straws
- disposable plastic plates and bowls
- PVC packaging