The plastic problem: How can manufacturers help counter it?

Plastic is versatile. But, plastic is a problem, a big one. More is being made and thrown away every year and it has never been more essential for manufacturers to re-use and recycle plastic where they can.

Plastic has properties that make it ideal for many applications – packaging, components, containers, the list goes on.

However, these qualities have also resulted in it becoming an environmental problem, an 8.3 million tonne problem, with many plastics being used only once before being thrown out.

In fact, over the last decade we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.

How can this issue even begin to be countered?

Initiatives

WRAP, a sustainability focused charity, launched UK Plastic Pact earlier this year, a collaboration bringing together business from across the entire plastics value chain with UK governments and NGOs to tackle the waste issue.

These Pact members are responsible for over 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold through UK supermarkets. In addition, 15 other organisations have also shown their commitment to the Pact.

2025 targets:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models.
  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging

Technology detects black plastics

Next month, dairy manufacturer, The Collective will be the first FMCG business to introduce near-infrared (NIR) colourant technology. 

The Collective will be the first FMCG business to introduce near-infrared (NIR) colourant technology
The Collective will be the first FMCG business to introduce near-infrared (NIR) colourant technology.

The company has teamed up with specialist, Colour Tone to integrate the technology, this to ensure its black plastic yogurt pot lids can be effectively recycled.

Most black plastics – and many other pigments – absorb the infrared signal used to sort plastic packaging, this results in items not being detected by the sensors used in recycling operations.

The Collective has now been commissioned by WRAP to lead the very first project to demonstrate the potential of NIR colourants for black plastics detection.

In-house recycling

Coral Products (Mouldings) LTD, a plastic injection mould manufacturer, is investing in an in-house recycling plant in order to offer councils and housing associations the option to recycle their plastics.

Plastic mould manufacturer, Coral Products, are investing in an in-house recycling plant - image courtesy of Coral Products.
Plastic mould manufacturer, Coral Products, are investing in an in-house recycling plant – image courtesy of Coral Products.

The recycling plant, which will be based in the company’s Haydock site in Merseyside, will see the business utilise waste plastic from the surrounding areas to produce their products.

Neil Ashurst, managing director at Coral Products (Mouldings) LTD, told The Manufacturer: “The recycling plant will mean that we are able to offer councils, housing associations and other companies the option of recycling their waste plastic or old containers, and we can then use this new recycled material to create other products.”

On the importance of recycling wherever the company is able to, Ashurst said: “With the impact of waste plastic upon the environment, we are conscious as a plastics company to reduce any impact we may have.”

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