Nestlé UK boss calls for more plastics recycling

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Agostini: calling for more chemical recycling facilities for PET
Agostini: calling for more chemical recycling facilities for PET
Nestlé UK’s chief executive Stefano Agostini has called for the UK plastics recycling infrastructure to be dramatically improved to help food and drink brand owners meet challenging new recycling targets.

Currently there are shortages of recycled polyethylene terephthate (rPET) used in plastics drinks bottles, driven in part by a rising price for virgin PET, Agostini, who also chairs the Food & Drink Federation’s (FDF’s) plastics and packaging taskforce.

Agostini’s call followed a consultation on a proposal from Chancellor Philip Hammond for a tax on plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content from 2022. This has been met with dismay by large sections of the plastics packaging industry.

“The UK needs to invest in a simpler way to collect packaging as we do not have enough recycling facilities,”​ said Agostini.

Chemical recycling

He also wants the Government to provide incentives to facilitate this investment; particularly for ‘chemical recycling’ of PET to meet the high quality of recycled product required by the food and drink industry. Chemical – rather than mechanical – recycling enables previously unrecyclable PET to be processed into new bottles.

In April last year Nestlé announced its ambition to make 100% of its packaging recyclable or re-usable by 2025.

Agostini made his comments at the FDF annual convention held in London on 14 May.

His request for more investment in plastics recycling in the UK was supported by Dr Peter Maddox, director of the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), who also spoke at the event.

“It makes sense to build more resilience and diversify that market and the UK has a role to play in building reprocessing capacity,”​ said Maddox. “What is really hoped for is that some of the policy developments ​[from Government] will create the right market signals.”

WRAP investor's summit

WRAP is planning to hold an investors’ summit to explain the potential returns from investing in plastics recycling facilities, reported Maddox. “This is a real moment for Government to help business to step up and make sure the right incentives are in place.”

WRAP is co-ordinating a collaborative initiative called the UK Plastics Pact, for which Nestlé UK is a signatory, to help create a ‘circular economy’ for plastics, which eliminates waste going to landfill or damaging the wider environment. The Pact brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK Governments and NGOs to tackle the scourge of plastic waste.

The UK Plastics Pact has set various targets for the industry to meet by 2025. These include 100% of all plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable; 70% of plastic packaging to be effectively recycled or composted; the elimination of unnecessary single-use packaging; and an average of 30% recycled content in all plastics packaging.

“Clearly it makes sense to ensure we put systems in place that do not actually hinder the UK market operating effectively; working together and making sure we have a single system that is coherent and does not stifle the UK market operations,”​ said Maddox.

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