Philip Chadwick | Could a plastic agreement be worth its weight in gold?

The UK Plastics Pact feels like a game-changing moment for the industry but is the devil in the detail, asks Philip Chadwick?

There have been many announcements billed as ‘breakthrough’ during the first five months of the year, but the UK Plastics Pact feels like one of the most significant. With over 40 of the biggest FMCG names committing to reducing plastic over the next seven years, WRAP has done sterling work to bring the likes of Coca-Cola, Nestlé and Tesco together.

But there’s another phrase that’s cropped up in 2018 – ‘the devil is in the detail’. Whether it’s relating to deposit return schemes or major plastic commitments, some have pointed out that there is a lack of detail on how we get to the final destination.

Take the deposit return scheme, for example. The cost of setting up such a system has barely been mentioned in the media coverage yet it’s fair to say it won’t be cheap. Local authorities have concerns over the impact on kerbside recycling . The government will be under pressure to get the balance right because if the scheme doesn’t improve recycling rates (or decrease litter) it will be an expensive disaster.

As for the Plastics Pact, it’s fair to say that packaging technologists for major brands and retailers will be kept busy. This has been a year when packaging departments have grown in importance and not one major commitment should be completed without the input of the experts. The first issue to tackle is defining ‘single-use’ and ‘unnecessary’ packaging; something everyone seems to have an opinion on.

But is this pact enough? It’s a voluntary agreement, not underpinned by legislation. Some might feel that for all the talk, the government appears to be tinkering around the edges.

It may well suit business though as legislation can throw up another well-used phrase – ‘unintended consequences’.

Philip Chadwick is editor of Packaging News

Leave a Reply