Demand for recycled content in plastic packaging continues to escalate as brands pledge to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging, particularly through The UK Plastics Pact.
As a consequence, in order to meet these higher recycling targets competition for recycled content across packaging and non-packaging applications is likely to increase.
Brands and retailers need to take a ‘Design for recycled content approach’ if we are to make a sizeable shift in the plastic circular economy. As such we need packaging designed for the plastic circular economy and investment in the latest technologies to produce high quality recyclates. This will mean using rPE or rPP when possible. Better still, using it in preference to virgin.
If we took the approach that every application should have to justify the use of virgin, with a view to using as much recycled polymer as possible, we would be positively shifting the plastics mindset.
PP is the second largest polymer amount in packaging, in fact demand for Virgin PP in Europe grew from 10.570 Mt in 2016 to 11.289 Mt in 2020.
40% of non-bottle rigid packaging waste from UK households is PP (180kt/yr) which increases the need for foodgrade rPP.
Polypropylene (PP) is a dominant part of the packaging stream in the UK with about 300,000tpa used in packaging out of a total of 700,000tpa. About 70% of this ( 210,000tpa) is food-grade packaging and yet NO food-grade recycled PP is currently available for re-use into new packaging.To date one of the main barriers to unlocking PP’s huge potential has been a lack of technology and a reduced infrastructure to produce food-grade recycled PP.
The recycled content of PP PTTs and film used in consumer packaging is estimated at 5%.
Since the start of 2019 UK plastics recyclers have announced plans for additional plastics packaging recycling capacity totalling over 250kt, with plants currently scheduled to begin operations between late 2019 and 2021.
In 2017, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) each accounted for 28% of total plastic packaging. Meanwhile, low density polyethylene (LDPE) and polypropylene (PP) both account for 17% of the plastic packaging.