More action is needed to deliver a step change in the proportion of plastic packaging that is recyclable despite some progress, according to a new report out today.

British businesses signed up to the UK Plastics Pact – coordinated by environmental charity Wrap –reduced problematic single-use plastic items by 46% and reduced the amount of packaging on supermarket shelves by 10% between 2018 and 2020.

But the UK Plastics Pact annual report today highlighted that the proportion of plastic packaging that is recyclable still sits at 65%, and at 70% when including reusable plastic packaging.

It reported that the amount of recycled content in plastic packaging has doubled to 18% since 2018. This reduces the pressure put on natural resources, helping to keep oil in the ground and mitigate global warming.

Wrap said this progress put Pact members on track to hit 30% average recycled content by 2025 but warned that it was imperative to get high-quality recycled material for reprocessing.

The most significant reduction revealed in the report was in PVC packaging, a major contaminant to the recycling system, which fell by more than 80% since 2018.

The amount of plastic packaging recycled has increased from 44% to 52% in 2020, while UK processing of plastics has grown by nearly 50% in the last 5 years.

Wrap CEO Marcus Gover said: “The UK Plastics Pact arose at a time of great public concern about plastic pollution and has been a constant and practical programme for collective change to reset our relationship with plastics.

“Comparing 2020 against 2018, it has shown strong progress against its environmental targets during a period of unmitigated societal upheaval.

“I believe this work should inspire us when we think about the enormous efforts needed to tackle climate change, and how innovation and experimentation can drive forward action through strong public-private partnerships.

“The results of real-life reuse and refill trials carried out under the Pact are extremely exciting for how we could shop packaging-free in the future.

“We see a 50% growth in plastics reprocessing in the UK, which is a massive improvement, and Recycle Week marked a record high in terms of the numbers of people recycling – helping complete the cycle of plastics to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

“But as COP26 made clear, we have a long way to go and little time to make big changes.”

Through joining The UK Plastics Pact, Wrap can support businesses, from clothing and textiles to manufacturing and retail, in embedding the Plastic Pact’s targets into their strategies.

wrap.org.uk