Plastics recycling charity RECOUP has called on packaging designers and specifiers not to forget the basics when it comes to plastic packaging recyclability. Although current trends may seek to explore new innovations in packaging, often the fundamentals for designing for recyclability are forgotten.
RECOUP says it is guided by the recycling industry regarding rules for recyclability. It is crucial that packs no longer claim ‘recyclability’ if this cannot be supported by UK infrastructure systems and without the need for considerable intervention by consumers before disposal.
In revisiting this issue RECOUP has produced a Recyclability by Design – Back to Basics Case Study outlining some of these key principles covering labelling, single polymer construction and adhesives. The study looks at several pack types such as PET bottles, pots, tubs, and trays. It offers feedback on the recyclability of the products and looks at ways in which the producers can improve the capture rates of plastic packaging without intervention from the consumer. Stuart Foster, CEO of RECOUP, commented “You cannot change the recyclability of a pack by passing onto the consumer the responsibility.”
The study highlights the issues surrounding tear off strips and questions whether it is ethical to ask the consumer to remove a part of the packaging before recycling, as the implications if they fail to do so would be that the pack could fail to be correctly sorted for recycling, regardless of the main component. Claiming recyclability on a pack where such fundamental principles are ignored, RECOUP state is adding to consumer confusion.
Paul East, Head of Packaging, Recycling and Design RECOUP commented “While packaging needs to perform its main function, to protect and preserve the product, above anything else; recyclability guidelines exist to help packaging designers to make sure their packaging is designed with recycling in mind from the outset.”
RECOUP have been guiding their members for over 30 years on how the basic pack design principles can be incorporated to ensure that packs, when placed for recycling, can be sorted, captured, and reprocessed to promote a circular economy.
The group envisages that this issue will be keenly debated at the RECOUP conference on 29 September. Registrations can be made both for the conference and pre-conference dinner at www.recoup.org.