In a recent progress report on the Plastics Pact 2025 initiative, the Waste and Resources Action Programme has acknowledged significant advancements but admitted that crucial targets will likely not be met by the looming 2025 deadline. The report underscores the essential role of regulation, emphasizing its urgency to effectively address the challenges associated with single-use plastic packaging.
Launched in 2018, the Plastics Pact boasts over 120 signatories, including retailers, manufacturers, and recycling companies, all committed to eliminating "problematic or unnecessary" single-use plastic packaging by 2025 and ensuring that 100% of plastic packaging is recyclable.
Evaluating Achievements and Challenges in WRAP's Pursuit of Plastics Pact 2025 Targets
Despite commendable strides, WRAP's report reveals potential shortfalls in meeting the four key targets:
Target 1, which aims to eliminate 100% of problematic plastics, has seen a 99.6% reduction in the sale and distribution of problematic single-use items between 2018 and 2022.
Target 2, focused on making 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable, has achieved a 71% recyclability rate among UK Plastics Pact members, demonstrating a 5% increase since 2018. Additionally, 73% of packaging is now either recyclable or reusable.
Target 3, aimed at boosting plastic recycling to 70%, has seen a commendable increase from 37% in 2018 to 55% in the UK, with 54% of this material recycled domestically, showcasing a reduction in reliance on foreign markets.
Target 4, calling for a 30% increase in recycled content, has made significant progress, reaching 24.1% from 8.5%. Despite these achievements, WRAP stresses that the absence of comprehensive collection, sorting, and recycling infrastructure remains a key impediment.
WRAP's Strategic Initiatives and Urgent Call for Regulatory Support
WRAP's CEO, Harriet Lamb, emphasizes the critical need for regulation to fully achieve the targets by 2025. Lamb highlights the lack of widespread collection and recycling of plastic bags and wrapping, underscoring the necessity for extended producer responsibility, mandatory collection, and reforms to the plastics packaging tax. Looking ahead, WRAP anticipates the removal of all targeted items by the end of 2025, with a continuous review process to adapt strategies. The organization also foresees a growing emphasis on reusable packaging, aims to develop industry roadmaps, and stresses the need to address plastic bags and wrapping, which account for nearly 25% of all primary packaging.
In addressing Target 4, WRAP emphasizes the importance of mass-balance accounting in non-mechanical recycling to unlock the supply of food-grade recyclate. The organization commits to collaborating with the industry to identify opportunities for sustained increases in recycled content, particularly in the face of challenges such as lower prices for virgin plastic.
In conclusion, WRAP remains optimistic about the possibilities of a circular economy for plastics but calls for swift regulatory action to ensure the successful realization of the Plastics Pact 2025 targets. The report serves as a reminder that public-private partnerships and global collaboration, combined with effective regulation, are essential to combat the pressing issue of plastic pollution.