Bringing flexi back

In 2019, the UK produced over 300,000 tonnes of flexible plastic packaging but only 6% was recycled (1). Flexi plastic includes lots of different types of packaging ranging from plastic bags and wrappers to films, pouches, packets and sachets. They are also described as ‘plastic bags and wrapping’, ‘soft' or 'sccrunchy' plastics.  Whatever the name, it is a valuable material that can be recycled over and over again. To drive progress in flexi recycling in the UK, Hubbub has supported the launch of the Flexible Plastic Fund. 

What is the Fund?

The Flexible Plastic Fund was created by Ecosurety, and established by five of the UK’s largest brands: Mars, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever. This £1 million pound fund launched to incentivise high-quality, fully-tracked flexi recycling in the UK. To make flexi recycling more economically viable, the Fund agreed to guarantee a mininum price for well recycled flexi.

This new collaborative scheme is an industry-first as it brings together everyone involved with flexible plastic including manufacturers, retailers, recyclers and consumers. Hubbub created an online campaign to help raise awareness of the launch and how organisations can support the initiative. The UK seems ready to take on this challenge given a survey in January 2021 revealed 95% of the 1,500 participants indicated they would be willing to recycle their flexible plastics (2). 

How does it work?

By guaranteeing minimum price for every tonne of properly recycled flexi plastic, the industry will be incentivised to invest in recycling infrastructure and jobs right here in the UK. The process will be transparent and fully tracked, with at least 80% being recycled in the UK – rising to 100% by 2023. Until 2023, where there are currently limits in UK capacity and technology, up to 20% could be exported to qualifying facilities in Europe only.

What's the bigger picture?

The Fund’s long term ambition is to ensure flexi recycling is entirely UK based, entirely circular, and can be facilitated by household collections, making it as accessible and efficient as possible. To begin with, flexi collection points will be hosted in retailer’s stores.

How can you get involved?

  • manufacturers using plastic packaging can contribute to the Fund
  • retailers can host collection points for flexible plastic packaging
  • recyclers can sign-up to the Fund and begin investing in jobs and infrastructure to improve flexi recycling in the UK 
  • individuals can contact their local supermarket to request they host a flexi collection point

Visit flexibleplasticfund.org.uk to find out more about bringing flexi back. 

References
(1) Valpak Report: Packflow Covid-19 Phase 1: Plastic - A review of the quantity of plastic packaging being placed on the market (POM) and recycled in 2019 (Oct20)
(2) EPPIC survey on flexible plastics (Jan21)