While we have been active for some time on reducing plastic weight and increasing recycled content, we have also significantly increased our focus on the plastics we use.
We recognise that far too much plastic packaging is thrown away and that more effort needs to be made by industry and other stakeholders to fulfil our shared responsibility to reduce, re use and recycle all types of plastic.
We are committed to playing our part and are guided by four key commitments on plastic:
- We will continually seek to increase the recycled content and recyclability of all types of plastic we use
- We will continue to reduce the weight of the plastic packaging we use and explore ways to replace plastics with alternatives that are less harmful to the environment
- We will increase consumer communication through our brands about our packaging and the recycling and disposal behaviour we encourage
- We will continue to engage with the recycling industry in the UK and seek to close the loop with appropriate sources of plastic that can be recycled domestically
Recycled content and recyclability
The majority of our plastic use is in PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles in our soft drinks and oils business. PET is widely recycled in the UK and is one of the few materials to be collected at kerbside by all UK local authorities.
Specific challenges remain however. The UK recycling rate for all PET is 74% yet the rate for small ‘on the go’ consumption products is only c 3%. It is for this reason that we support the implementation of a well designed UK wide deposit return scheme which should see a higher rate of return of bottles for recycling as well as reducing litter.
In 2015 we reached the milestone of 25% recycled PET (RPET) in all of our soft drinks bottles and worked in partnership with our suppliers to improve this and in 2018 we implemented 51% UK sourced RPET content in all our soft drinks and oils, including the customer own brand products we supply.
This is a leading position within the UK for a business of our scale and while we want to move this figure on, we are also dependent on greater consumer engagement, deposit return schemes and more recycling capacity to deliver more material for us to re-use.
We have also implemented 30% recycled HDPE into our chilled juice drinks produced at Manchester and we have implemented 50% recycled content on clear and printed plastic film used to package our products and on consumer multipacks.
Reducing weight and alternatives
Light weighting bottles is a permanent activity within Princes and we are committed to ongoing reduction projects.
Recent examples of reduction include 200 tonnes removed through changes to our 5 litre water bottles at Eden valley, 145 tonnes removed from our Jucee range, and 500 tonnes at our Edible Oils Limited sites through reducing the neck sizes and in house blowing of bottles.
We are very much aware of the concern expressed over straws by consumers and government and are actively seeking a non-plastic alternative to fix to rigid beverage cartons. Plastic straws have been historically used as they have the inherent strength to penetrate a strong carton seal that has to be durable from factory to kitchen cupboard.
We removed PVC (polyvinyl chloride) from our products due to its limited recyclability in early 2019.
In all the work we do we will always take a holistic view and consider the long term implications of changes we make.
We are implementing OPRL recycling messaging onto all of our brands in order to provide clearer guidance to consumers of the recyclability of the packaging we use. Where we have introduced recycled content into products we will also communicate this on pack.
We want plastic to remain in the UK for recycling with high quality material re used. We welcome the fact that the UK government is committed to reforming the Producer Responsibility system to increase transparency of how and where businesses annual compliance payments are being used.
We want to close the loop on all our packaging – particularly plastics – to ensure that material placed onto the UK market is recycled and reused within the UK. It is for this reason that in 2018 and 2019 all of our packaging waste obligations were met with UK recyclers.