Switching from plastic not a cure-all, says UK group

Recoup analysis points to cases where companies changed packaging from plastic to something less recyclable.

August 20, 2022

Peterborough, United Kingdom-based not-for-profit Recoup says regarding a trend toward packaging material switching away from plastic that, in some cases, it is being done “without consideration for the effect on overall recyclability.”

States the group, “When packaging is assessed in isolation rather than as part of the overall supply chain, then citizens can be lulled into a false sense of security regarding recyclability and environmental sustainability claims.”

Recoup has produced a set of case studies designed to spell out the issue and how improvements can be made to “ensure maximum recovery whilst minimizing the impact on the environment. “ States the organization, “It is important that any claims made concerning sustainability are valid and not ‘greenwashing.’” 

Comments Kate Bedford, Recoup’s packaging project manager, “There is a need to make brand owners and packaging designers aware of the factors which need to be considered when looking at changing material. Case studies communicate what is required.”

Paul East, the group’s head of packaging, recycling and design, remarks. “A growing number of companies are following the trend to change material types to claim improved sustainability and recyclability. However, there are instances when product claims are in danger of lulling consumers into believing such switches are an improvement, when in some instances this is not the case.”

The case studies give “highlight the issues with multi-material packaging such as laminated paper bottles and trays,” says Recoup. “Often the pack had the best chance of being recycled and recovered in its original state, thus questioning to what purpose the swap was made.”