The Flexible Packaging Consortium made up of Ella’s Kitchen, Mars, Nestlé, and Taylors of Harrogate, along with waste and recycling experts SUEZ, has today released a new report providing data and recommendations which highlight an opportunity to increase flexible packaging recycling in the UK.

The report findings, much of which has already been provided to DEFRA and The UK Plastics Pact, conclude that the collection and recycling of flexible packaging can be both ‘practicable and affordable’ and describes how flexible packaging could be phased in to kerbside collections across the UK beginning in 2023.

The Consortium was formed 18 months ago with the shared knowledge that packaging recycling cannot be solved by one company alone and that collaboration with other industry experts would have the biggest impact on tackling packaging waste.

The group of businesses have joined forces to share data and insights to help understand how to recycle more flexible plastic packaging. The report looks at how much flexible packaging is placed on market, how the current collection system works, end of life recycling solutions, and recommendations on how flexible packaging could be considered with the Government’s proposed waste policy reforms.

Building on the findings of the report, there is an opportunity to take a significant step forward in dealing with the difficult issue of recycling flexible packaging, which would be transformative for brands, retailers and consumers in the UK.

An estimated 215 billion items of flexible plastic packaging, such as confectionery wrappers, pet and baby food pouches, bread bags and crisp packets, are placed on market in the UK each year and nearly all of this is currently sent to energy recovery or landfill after use. Less than 20% of local authorities collect any form of plastic film or other flexible plastic packaging for recycling.

The Consortium is calling on other businesses to read the report and join the collaborative effort to deliver solutions for flexible packaging waste.

Mark Cuddigan, CEO of Ella’s Kitchen, said:

“Protecting the planet for future generations is a top priority for us at Ella’s Kitchen and as a B Corp, we strongly believe that business has the power to be a force for good in society. Every business must play their part in addressing sustainability challenges, and it is clear that when we work together and collaborate our efforts, we are far more likely to create real, long-term solutions. We are proud to be part of the Flexible Packaging Consortium and work alongside these brands on this key issue. We hope our work not only goes to helping to improve the recycling of all flexible packaging in the UK, but also inspires more cross-sector collaboration on sustainability initiatives.”  

Stefano Agostini, CEO for Nestlé UK and Ireland said:

“We know there is power in working together across businesses and industry, and by joining forces we can have more influence in making sure our packaging can be recycled. We cannot solve this problem alone and I am proud to be working in the Consortium to tackle this collective issue which has such a huge impact on our planet.” 

Kathryn Patchett, Product Sustainability Specialist at Taylors of Harrogate, said:

“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. We’re proud to be part of the Consortium as part of our commitment to ensuring all of our packaging can be reused, recycled or composted by 2025.” 

Stuart Hayward-Higham, Technical Development Director for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK and author of the report said:

“This report summarises many months of research and collaboration across the value chain to understand issues and demonstrates a real potential to move more plastic packaging into the recycling bin. Collecting flexible plastic packaging and films from homes and businesses would help improve recycling rates and create a more circular system for flexible plastic packaging, so we are encouraged both by the findings and by the effective partnership working that made it possible to complete the research.”

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