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Flexible packaging in the UK waste stream: new report

Flexible packaging and its place in the municipal waste stream in the UK is the subject of an authoritative new report released by Envicura, the environmental consultancy of PCI Films Consulting.

Flexible Packaging In The UK Municipal Waste Stream 2011 details how all kinds of packaging are treated and compares UK systems with those of the rest of Europe. It explores flexible packaging materials and their life cycle in procurement, production, waste collection and treatment. Its aim is to support materials planning and decision making throughout the flexible packaging chain and to be an important resource for flexible packaging manufacturers and converters.

The 170-page report provides a set of benchmarks, the ‘Five Cornerstones’ for considerations of sustainability and biodiversity in the context of flexible packaging, and provides overview of the European and UK laws and directives that have led to the UK’s current regulatory standards. Envicura also looks at the variations in household waste collection that leads to adjacent council areas requiring segregation of waste into anything from three up to six separate receptacles.

The study reveals that the key driver behind the UK’s improved recycling rates is export, with 37% of packaging waste volume now being sent to countries such as India and China. Plastic bags account for around 90% of flexible waste recycling, with 95% of that figure going abroad.

The report covers the collection and treatment of pre- and post-consumer waste, and provides an insight into the challenges and opportunities in flexible waste management and makes predictions about future volumes and waste management strategies.

Packaging accounts for around 20% of municipal waste, and with flexible packaging making up approximately 13% of packaging waste, flexible packaging is about 3% of total municipal waste. A small fraction of the total that draws a disproportionate amount of criticism on environmental grounds because it is difficult or impossible to recycle.

The report reveals that over 80% of flexible packaging waste currently goes to landfill and this demonstrates ‘a real need for new materials and new waste management methods’, concludes the author Steve Hillam.

The report is available from Envicura or PCI Films Consulting.

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