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The war against plastic – who’s fighting?

The FMCG industry is leading the way and the war against plastic packaging has commenced. Big name brands have this week pledged to raise the amount of plastic packaging that is recycled or reused, from 14%, to 70% by 2025. Nine out of 10 people claim they would recycle more if it were made easier, and with 60% of rubbish that ends up in the dustbin actually suitable for recycling – this is a crucial step.

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With manufacturers such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and Mars making ongoing commitments to sustainability and this cause, there are already some great ideas being reported. From a move away from highly coloured plastics – which are less valuable than clear plastics in the recycling market as the reusability is limited – and towards items being packaged in clear pouches; to consumers re-using liquid laundry detergent bottles and refilling these at supermarkets, it looks as though there are lots of positive changes in the pipeline. Since WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment launched in 2005, steps forward have already included light weighting plastic bottles and introducing concentrated liquids, such as fruit squash, so that plastic packaging is holding as much product as possible.

For those companies that haven’t yet considered making their Social Purpose part of their core business strategy, now should be the time to strike. Manufacturers and retailers have a responsibility to tackle the 30% of plastic packaging that cannot currently be recycled, but with a third of plastic packaging laying to rest as litter, another big challenge is getting the public to start pulling their weight.

Behind the scenes, supermarkets and suppliers have long been demonstrating their commitment to their CSR initiatives and targets. M&S and Boots are among the retailers already using recycled plastic in selected product lines and our client Premier Foods has achieved its ambition to send zero food and packaging waste to landfill. But with more of the general public starting to take an interest, businesses are committed to making their objectives big news, ensuring the positive impacts they are making in their businesses, on their reputation and on the environment are hard to miss. Alongside the media, manufacturers have the task of grabbing more consumer attention and making recycling or food waste relevant to the masses.

Looking over the reports from earlier this week, the Daily Mail has hit readers with concerns about litter and health issues caused by the chemicals in plastic packaging, whilst The Times has noted that Unilever’s move towards fully recyclable packaging is following pressure from customers (including the chief executive’s wife who is increasingly irritated by recycling limitations). Making these commitments relevant to consumers is sure to help in the long run and an important part of the positive steps forward. Deposit schemes on plastic bottles and refillable packaging are great ideas in theory, but only if everyone is on board and it fits in with consumers busy lives.

Vicki Baker
Senior Account Manager

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