Spotlight on: Plastic

Published: 20th May 2021

Michael at the cutting table checking quality

What’s the answer to using plastic more sustainably?

Sustainability charity WRAP believes that packaging producers have a pivotal role to play in supporting brands and retailers when it comes to making plastic more sustainable – and we agree. In this article we explore some of the issues around plastic and sustainability, and how we’re helping the brands and retailers we work with.

WRAP leads The UK Plastics Pact, which was launched to tackle plastic waste across the whole plastics value chain. Their aim is to create a circular economy for plastics, by keeping them in the economy and out of the natural environment.

The UK Plastics Pact is one of a global network of Pacts, supported by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative.

Pact members are focused on reducing plastic by using less packaging and designing packaging that can easily be recycled and reused, alongside encouraging innovation and new business models.

Designing out waste

As a packaging producer we’re focused on helping our customers design out waste from the very outset. Our design and structural teams work together to create products that use less materials, including plastic, without compromising on impact or functionality. As WRAP says, the best way to reduce your plastic footprint is simply to use less, especially when it comes to virgin plastic.

Reducing plastic use and recycling

Overall, we minimise the amount of plastics we use and when we do use them, 99% are widely recyclable PET and polypropylene plastics.

We’re also focused on recycling. Our polypropylene waste is returned to the mill and reused to make new materials many times over. One of the key features of polypropylene is its ability to be recycled over and over again, without any significant change to its physical properties. Polypropylene makes up around 20% of the world’s plastic, so it’s a key focus for closed loop recycling.

The business benefits

Using plastic more sustainably isn’t just essential for the environment, it’s vital for business too, with consumers actively seeking out more sustainable products.

A recent UK poll found that 59% of respondents are ‘disappointed’ in big brands who aren’t doing enough to be sustainable, with many saying they want brands to be more transparent about their wider sustainability goals.

Shoppers want to see more biodegradable packaging and easily recyclable products, as well as brands doing more to reduce their carbon emissions.

Interestingly, the poll also found that consumers want help from brands and retailers to help them become better, more sustainable shoppers. Focusing on your packaging is a golden opportunity to connect with your customers and become more competitive.

Designing out waste can also be good for your bottom line and wider sustainability agenda, helping you to cut costs and carbon emissions, while finding more innovative ways to deliver and promote your products.

Changing legislation

From an industry perspective, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation sees upstream innovation to tackle the root course of problems as a key economic opportunity. For example, shifting just 20% of plastic packaging from single use to reuse is estimated to be worth USD 10 billion.

It’s also essential for brands and retailers to prepare for new regulations around plastics. In the UK, the government’s new Plastic Packaging Tax (coming in April 2022) is focusing on recycling, by taxing plastic packaging made in or imported into the UK which contains less than 30% recycled plastic.

What’s next?

Technology is driving innovation at a rapid pace. When it comes to recycling for example, technology is helping to sort and separate different grades of waste, enabling more of it to be recycled. It’s also helping to develop a new generation of plastics with the potential to biodegrade harmlessly.

Ultimately, even with biodegradable plastics, the best way to use plastic more sustainably is simply to use less by designing out waste – and when you do use it, opt for plastics that can be easily recycled and reused.

How can we help?

As packaging experts, we can help you to rethink or enhance your packaging and promotions at every stage of the process. From the concept and format, to the components and materials used. We can help you move from non-recyclable packaging, to more recyclable options for instance, or explore new materials and approaches to design out waste at every stage. We can also help you to communicate how you’re using plastic more sustainably to your customers.

Connolly’s RED MILLS

See how we helped Connolly’s RED MILLS create a robust display solution in keeping with their premium brand using environmentally friendly PETG.

View Connolly’s RED MILLS project

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