UK businesses make world-leading pact to tackle plastic pollution

26th April 2018

Unnecessary single-use plastic packaging will be a thing of the past as businesses sign up to a world-first pact, which aims to transform the plastic packaging system in the UK and keep plastic in the economy and out of the ocean.

The UK Plastics Pact, launched today by sustainability experts WRAP, is a unique collaboration which brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK governments and NGOs to tackle the scourge of plastic waste.

Today 42 businesses*, including major food, drink and non-food brands, manufacturers and retailers right through to plastic reprocessors and packaging suppliers have made their commitment to the Pact. These Pact members are responsible for over 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold through UK supermarkets**. In addition, 15 other organisations have also shown their commitment to the Pact.  

This powerful collective has committed to hit a series of ambitious targets by 2025:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models.
  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted.
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.

The UK Plastics Pact is the first of its kind in the world. It will be 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 being led by WRAP, the sustainability experts.

The Secretary of State for the Environment Rt. Hon Michael Gove will be speaking at the launch event this evening in London, which is being hosted by WRAP. Mr Gove will be joined by Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and WRAP CEO Marcus Gover, to officially unveil the Pact and start the journey to transforming the UK plastics system***.

WRAP CEO, Marcus Gover, said: “Together, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink and reshape the future of plastic so that we retain its value, and curtail the damage plastic waste wreaks on our planet. This requires a wholescale transformation of the plastics system and can only be achieved by bringing together all links in the chain under a shared commitment to act. That is what makes the UK Plastics Pact unique.  It unites every body, business and organisation with a will to act on plastic pollution. We will never have a better time to act, and together we can.”

Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: “We are delighted to launch this pioneering national implementation initiative with WRAP in the UK. This bold new pact will bring together businesses, policymakers and the public to create a circular economy for plastics that tackles the causes of plastics waste and pollution, not just the symptoms. Focussing on innovation, better packaging design and end-of-use systems will not only generate long-term benefits for the environment, but is also a huge economic opportunity. We encourage others around the world to help drive this momentum towards finding global solutions to what is a global problem.”

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, said: “Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realised if government, businesses and the public work together. Industry action can prevent excess plastic reaching our supermarket shelves in the first place. 

“I am delighted to see so many businesses sign up to this pact and I hope others will soon follow suit.”

Minister for Clean Energy, Claire Perry said; “Momentum is gathering around this crucial mission and it is fantastic to see WRAP leading on this world-first pact to reduce plastic pollution. Last week, we committed £61.4m to boost global research to help Commonwealth countries reduce plastic usage and prevent plastic waste from ending up in our seas. Today’s commitment is another vital step towards achieving a plastic past and looking towards a cleaner future.”

Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham, said: “I believe that we all need to take action to address the scourge of plastic littering our countryside and seas. Businesses have an important role to play and I am pleased to see so many engaging with the Plastics Pact and its vision of a world where plastic never becomes waste. 

“The Scottish Government has already introduced the household recycling charter to simplify recycling, committed to introducing a deposit return scheme and will shortly be consulting on proposals to ban the manufacture and sale of plastic-stemmed cotton buds in Scotland. Today we further build on that action as Pact signatories by looking to review the use of plastics across the public sector in Scotland.”

Welsh Government Minister for Environment, Hannah Blythyn, said: “We welcome businesses taking a proactive approach to tackling plastic pollution, which is a step towards achieving our target of Wales becoming a zero-waste nation by 2050.

“In Wales, we will shortly be publishing our research into extending producer responsibility for food and drink packaging waste, while exploring options such as a UK-wide deposit return scheme.”

Zero Waste Scotland, Chief Executive, Iain Gulland, said: “We welcome the strong commitment shown by these leading businesses and representative bodies to tackle the issues associated with single-use plastics.

“Scotland is already leading the way with action on cotton buds, straws, microbeads and plastic packaging, including being the first part of the UK to commit to a deposit return scheme, which we are currently designing for the Scottish Government. 

“We look forward to working with those signed up to the Plastic Pact to achieve our ambitions for cleaner seas, streets and countryside and for a more circular economy.”

British Plastics Federation, Director of Plastics and Flexible Packaging, Barry Turner, said: “The British Plastics Federation is delighted to support The UK Plastics Pact. We are committed to playing our part in leaving the environment in a better state for future generations. We look forward to providing industry expertise while continuing to develop the BPF’s Marine Litter Platform, with its objective of stopping plastic waste entering our oceans.”

Common Seas, Sea Champion and Founder, Jo Royle, said: "Common Seas is pleased to support The UK Plastics Pact by working with the network to design scalable and investable innovations in materials and systems to be demonstrated at a local level that work towards eliminating plastic pollution in oceans.”

In the UK the Pact will stimulate innovative new business models to reduce the total amount of plastic packaging. It will also help build a stronger recycling system, where we take more responsibility for our own waste and ensure plastic packaging can be effectively recycled and made into new products and packaging and, with the support of governments, ensure consistent UK recycling is met. 

The immediate focus will be on identifying the priority projects that will deliver greatest impacts in the short and long term, such as overcoming barriers to increasing the amount of recycled content used in new packaging, developing reusable packaging and working with partners to overcome the issue of un-recyclable black plastic.

We all have a role to play. For the Pact to truly be holistic and involve everyone, WRAP will be launching a campaign in summer to engage citizens and help us all take action. 

If you want your business to be a leader in the transition to a circular economy for plastics, contact ukplasticspact@wrap.org.uk and join the Pact. For more information see www.wrap.org.uk/UKplasticspact 

Ends

NOTES TO EDITOR:

Footnotes:

*List of Pact members – see separate sheet for full list of organisations

** Based on WRAP estimates by weights and market share, using Valpak data 

*** This evening’s launch event will be attended by founding members, supporters and media who’ll hear from the Secretary of State for the Environment Rt. Hon Michael Gove and Dame Ellen MacArthur as well as WRAP CEO, Marcus Gover. There will also be a panel discussion with Mike Barry – M&S, Sebastian Munden – Unilever, Dan Cooke – Viridor, Louise Edge – Greenpeace and Sandar Defruyt – Ellen MacArthur Foundation. 

For more information on The UK Plastics Pact 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.

THE PLASTICS PACT

The global plastics crisis requires a global solution. This is why the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is launching The Plastics Pact – a unique international network of national and regional initiatives.

The UK Plastics Pact is the first of these initiatives, and Chile will follow later this year. Each initiative will work towards a shared global vision of a circular economy for plastics – in which plastics stay in the economy and out of the environment – set out by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative.

Each Plastics Pact initiative will bring together local stakeholders, including businesses, policy-makers and NGOs, to set ambitious, time-bound, targets to eliminate unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternatives; ensure all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable; improve the collection and recycling of plastic packaging; and increase the recycled content used in plastic packaging to drive demand for recycled materials.

THE ELLEN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation (‘the Foundation’) was established in 2010 with the aim of accelerating the transition to the circular economy. Since its creation, the charity has emerged as a global thought leader, putting the circular economy on the agenda of decision makers across businesses, governments, and academia. The charity’s work focuses on five interlinking areas: insight and analysis; education and training; business and government; systemic initiatives; and communications. Further information: ellenmacarthurfoundation.org | @circulareconomy

THE NEW PLASTICS ECONOMY

The New Plastics Economy is an ambitious, three-year initiative to build momentum towards a plastics system that works. Applying the principles of the circular economy, it brings together key stakeholders to rethink and redesign the future of plastics, starting with packaging. The initiative is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with a broad group of leading companies, cities, philanthropists, governments, academics, students, NGOs, and citizens.

Further information: newplasticseconomy.org | @newplasticsecon