As it's Global Recycling Day this March 18th, it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider the status of recycling in the UK in 2022.
What are the Benefits of Eco-Friendly Packaging?
Recycling is core to what we do at NaturePac. Our mission is to provide the most eco-friendly packaging to food to go businesses - whether that is recyclable, compostable, or re-usable; we've thought of it all, from large home delivery boxes all the way down to the sleeves on our NaturePac fully recyclable cups, which contain recycled material.
We believe that, from a purely practical and a sustainability perspective, the best currently available disposable packaging, for most businesses, is recyclable rather than compostable. This is because, in the majority of food to go situations, the easiest means of disposal will be in a recycling bin rather than a compost bin. Most High Streets feature recycling bins; very few feature compost bins.
The Challenge Of Recycling Infrastructure
However, the national recycling infrastructure is inconsistent. There are multiple models and, currently, limited consistency between different local authorities. This makes life difficult for consumers who may well live in one area but work in another which has different policies on what can be recycled and what facilities are available. It is therefore not surprising that for many there is confusion about what gets recycled and how.
For the businesses we supply, who wish to give their customers the most eco-friendly packaging solutions, it is also difficult because what is appropriate in one location may not be appropriate in another. This is why we believe that there is no one size fits all solution, and why we offer a range of sustainable packaging, so that where a compostable solution is most appropriate we can provide that; but where the recycling infrastructure supports it we can offer a fully recyclable solution.
Change though is coming, although perhaps not as quickly as we would like.
The New Environment Act
The Government published an ambitious policy document towards the end of 2018. Titled Our Waste, Our Resources. A Strategy For England, it set out a comprehensive list of ambitions that were designed to help the country reach it’s net zero target and introduce a more circular economy. Recycling is one of the key topics considered. This paper resulted in the new Environment Act, passed at the end of 2021
“For those operating in the waste and recycling sector, the Act aims to incentivise greater recycling, encourage businesses to create sustainable packaging, make household recycling easier and stop the export of polluting plastic waste to developing countries.”
This cannot come soon enough. Improving rates of recycling will require significant action. After increasing from a paltry 11% in 2000 rates of recycling rose significantly to 45% in 2010; however since then the rate has largely plateaued and nationally we are currently recycling about 46% of waste.
So, we welcome the Government’s objectives but would love them to move faster; and we would love these principles to be adopted throughout the UK.
What NaturePac is doing to help
While the new Act is being implemented, NaturePac will continue to do what we can to help the businesses we supply and their customers. We have encouraged the growth of the circular economy by actively seeking and selling products which already contain post consumer recycled content, such as our rPET smoothie cups and salad bowls.
But it's not just products, for change to happen we need increase awareness and education. This year, we will launch a range of training and point of sale materials that is designed to help businesses train their staff on how Naturepac packaging should be disposed of - many have told us how useful it would be to be able to brief their staff more easily as they are typically the people who get asked the questions by customers. And we will produce a range of material, such as posters, postcards and counter cards to provide customers with accessible and easy to understand information on how they can make the right choices when they are disposing of packaging. For those with a passion for the subject (we can’t be alone!) we will also make detailed advice on recycling products available on our website.
There will need to be more, but we hope it is a step in the right direction.