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WRAP marks first anniversary of The UK Plastics Pact with new progress report

The Waste and Resources Action Programme (which operates as WRAP), a registered UK Charity has produced a report on 21 May 2019 - one year on from after forming a unique pact to tackle plastics pollution.

Key Headlines:-
  • Unrecyclable plastics such as non-detectable black plastics and polystyrene are disappearing from UK supermarket shelves
  • Members have started removing unnecessary single use plastics such as straws and plastic cutlery

One year since UK businesses across the plastics supply chain made a unique pact to tackle plastics pollution, WRAP has published a report of progress made by members to date. The report also details the pledges members have made to take action against the Pact’s targets in the near future.

WRAP CEO Marcus Gover said: “When we launched The UK Plastics Pact a year ago, we knew that we had a monumental task on our hands. Tackling plastics pollution remains high in the public consciousness, and citizens quite rightly want to see action from the businesses that put plastic packaging onto our supermarket shelves and into our cafes and restaurants. So I’m delighted to celebrate the first anniversary of the Pact by revealing the huge array of initiatives members have been working on over the past year.

“The first year was about building solid foundations and setting a clear direction of travel for collaborative change. Moving forward there will be tough decisions to make, new innovations to foster, and investment to be made – all at great pace and with an urgency that reflects the scale of the problem we are tackling. Our members have shown they are up for the challenge and we have great momentum to propel us forward. I’m convinced we are on the way to transforming forever the way we make, use and dispose of plastic.”

The UK Plastics Pact has set four ambitious targets by 2025, and members have reported progress against each one, demonstrating how collaboration across the entire plastics supply chain can deliver real change. Some examples against each target include:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models.
    • M&S has replaced plastic cutlery with alternatives made from FSC certified wood and swapped plastic straws for paper versions. Waitrose has committed to stop selling plastic cutlery by the end of this year.  Most retailers have removed plastic straws from sale and in cafes – Morrisons estimates that this removes approximately 30 tonnes of plastic and 65m straws per year
    • Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose, M&S and Morrisons are trialling the removal of plastic packaging across a number of produce lines, to understand where plastic can be removed without impacting food waste
    • Tesco, Asda and Aldi combined have removed almost 700 tonnes of non-recyclable polystyrene pizza bases by introducing a cardboard alternative
  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
    • Members have reported widespread progress on removing unrecyclable black plastic from their packaging. For example, M&S phased out 1700 tonnes of black plastic packaging, Lidl has removed all black plastic packaging from primary fruit and vegetable packaging, and Ocado have removed it from 83 product lines, representing 90% of Ocado Own Brand lines that had black plastic. Brakes has removed 80% of black plastic (by weight) from its products. Other members, including Unilever, are working in collaboration with waste management companies to introduce a new type of black pigment for its personal care bottles that can be detected by infra-red scanners and therefore recycled.
    • Morrisons has moved polystyrene egg boxes into paper pulp – saving 294 tonnes of unrecyclable plastic
    • Unilever is making all PG Tips tea bags biodegradable when placed in your food waste caddy
    • Several supermarkets now welcome the use of customers’  own containers at fresh food counters
    • Reckitt Benckiser has removed the metal components from Cillit Bang, Vanish and Dettol cleaning triggers, as this is problematic for the recycling process
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted.
    • Members have reported significantly enhanced communications to citizens about what can be recycled across the board. All retailer members and a large number of brands are signed up to the On Pack Recycling Labelling scheme to provide clear messaging on what can or cannot be recycled.
    • Boots has run a trial to understand the effectiveness of adding front of pack recycling messages on their bathroom toiletries
    • Hovis now include a recycling logo on the front of a range of bread bags to let citizens know that this packaging can be recycled with carrier bags at larger stores
    • Coca-Cola has introduced a “Please Recycle Me” message on over 500 million of its bottle tops each year, and Britvic included a “Please Recycle” message on its recent Robinsons Fruit Creations TV advert.
    • PepsiCo (Walkers Crisps) launched the UK’s first nationwide crisp packet recycling scheme – it’s free, accepts any crisp packet brand and has already collected 2.4million packets
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
    • Danone has reported that all evian 75cl, 1L and 1.5L bottles produced for the UK market now contain 50% recycled content
    • innocent have achieved a minimum of 30% recycled content in their bottles, with their smoothie bottles now containing 50%.
    • Ecover and Highland Spring Group have launched PET bottles with 100% recycled content

This is just the tip of the iceberg, with the new report also capturing pledges Pact members have made for action against the targets in the near future. Many members are looking at refillable alternatives for their plastic packaging – particularly for cleaning products – so that the primary packaging is reusable. Further efforts to help citizens recycle more and recycle better also feature.

Removing unrecyclable plastics will be a key focus for members over the coming year. While the Pact targets run until 2025, WRAP is challenging members to act urgently. As far as possible, by the end of this year, they should remove polystyrene and PVC from food packaging and by the end of 2020 they should be eradicated from non-food products. These plastics are not recycled and in the case of PVC it also contaminates plastic recycling. Also by the end of 2019 members are being requested to only use plastic that can be sorted effectively in the recycling process, such as adopting ‘detectable black’ pigments.

About The UK Plastic Pact:

  • The UK Plastics Pact was the first initiative of its kind in the world. It is being replicated in other countries to form a powerful global movement for change as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative. It is led by WRAP, the sustainability experts. For more information see www.wrap.org.uk/ukplasticspact 

About WRAP

  • First established in 2000, WRAP is a not for profit organisation which works with governments, businesses and citizens to create a world in which we source and use resources sustainably.
  • Our impact spans the entire life-cycle of the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the products we buy, from production to consumption and beyond.

Source: WRAP Press Release

From linear to circular – Accelerating a proven concept – World Economic Form

taken from the World Economic Forum

A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, which impair reuse and return to the biosphere, and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models.11

Such an economy is based on a few simple principles, as shown in Figure 2. First, at its core, a circular economy aims to design out waste. Waste does not exist: products are designed and optimized for a cycle of disassembly and reuse. These tight component and product cycles define the circular economy and set it apart from disposal and even recycling, where large amounts of embedded energy and labour are lost. Second, circularity introduces a strict differentiation between consumable and durable components of a product. Unlike today, consumables in the circular economy are largely made of biological ingredients or ‘nutrients’ that are at least non-toxic and possibly even beneficial, and can safely be returned to the biosphere, either directly or in a cascade of consecutive uses. Durables such as engines or computers, on the other hand, are made of technical nutrients unsuitable for the biosphere, such as metals and most plastics. These are designed from the start for reuse, and products subject to rapid technological advance are designed for upgrade. Third, the energy required to fuel this cycle should be renewable by nature, again to decrease resource dependence and increase systems resilience (to oil shocks, for example).12

Figure 2: The circular economy—an industrial system that is restorative by design

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1 Hunting and fishing
2 Can take both postharvest and postconsumer waste as an input
Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation circular economy team drawing from Braungart & McDonough and Cradle to Cradle (C2C)

For technical nutrients, the circular economy largely replaces the concept of a consumer with that of a user. This calls for a new contract between businesses and their customers based on product performance. Unlike in today’s buy-and-consume economy, durable products are leased, rented or shared wherever possible. If they are sold, there are incentives or agreements in place to ensure the return and thereafter the reuse of the product or its components and materials at the end of its period of primary use.

These principles all drive four clear-cut sources of value creation that offer arbitrage opportunities, i.e. ways to take advantage of the price difference between used and virgin materials [Figure 3]:

Figure 3: Sources of value creation for the circular economy

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SOURCE: Ellen MacArthur Foundation circular economy team

The power of the inner circle refers to minimizing comparative materials use vis-à-vis the linear production system. The tighter the circle, i.e. the less a product has to be changed in reuse, refurbishment and remanufacturing and the faster it returns to use, the higher the potential savings on the shares of material, labour, energy and capital still embedded in the product, and the associated externalities (such as greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water and toxicity).

The power of circling longer refers to maximizing the number of consecutive cycles (be it repair, reuse, or full remanufacturing) and/or the time in each cycle. Each prolonged cycle avoids the material, energy and labour of creating a new product or component.

The power of cascaded use refers to diversifying reuse across the value chain,
as as when cotton clothing is reused first as second-hand apparel, then crosses to the furniture industry as fibre-fill in upholstery, and the fibre-fill is later reused in stone wool insulation for construction—substituting for an inflow of virgin materials into the economy in each case—before the cotton fibres are safely returned to the biosphere.

The power of pure inputs, finally, lies in the fact that uncontaminated material streams increase collection and redistribution efficiency while maintaining quality, particularly of technical materials, which in turn extends product longevity and thus increases material productivity.

These four ways to increase material productivity are not merely one-off effects that will dent resource demand for a short period of time when these circular setups are introduced. Their lasting power lies in changing the run rate of required material intake. They can therefore add up to substantial cumulative advantages over a classical linear business-as-usual case.

Figure 4: A circular economy would not just ‘buy time’ but also reduce the amount of material consumed to a lower set point

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SOURCE: Ellen MacArthur Foundation circular economy team

The two Towards the Circular Economy reports published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation provide ample evidence that circularity has started to make inroads into the linear economy and has moved beyond proof of concept. A number of businesses are already thriving on it. Innovative products and contracts designed for the circular economy are already available in a variety of forms—from innovative designs of daily materials and products (e.g. biodegradable food packaging and easy-to-disassemble office printers) to pay-per-use contracts (for tyres for instance). Demonstrably, these examples have in common that they have focused on optimizing total systems performance rather than that of a single component.

Source: World Economic Forum

Goldfinger Factory – from Waste to Gold

Last week was London Circular Economy Week. One of the many events and activities during the week was a Circular Economy Club (CEC) London - "Circular Economy on the Circle Line Tour". This included a visit to the Goldfinger Factory at the base of the ionic Grade II listed Trellick Tower.

Participants outside the Goldfinger Factory on the Circular Economy Tour on the Circle Line