Flexibility is considered an all-around positive thing, but when you put the words “flexible” and “plastic” together, the meaning has a far more negative connotation. Flexible plastic, also called soft plastic, is what most plastic bags, wrappers, pouches, packets, and sachets are made of. It’s a material that is harder to treat because it contaminates other plastic recycling streams and clogs up the systems and machinery.
An estimated 6 percent of flexible plastics in the UK were recycled in 2019, even though the material accounts for 22 percent of all consumer plastic packaging. This is likely because only 16 percent of UK local authorities offer recycling systems that can accommodate flexible plastic.
The frustrating thing is, that flexible plastics can be recycled, and the public is willing to recycle them, but governments haven’t invested in the infrastructure to fully support it. That’s where the Flexible Plastic Fund comes in. It’s an initiative launched by Mars UK, Mondelez International, Nestle, PepsiCo, and Unilever that encourages and facilitates the recycling of flexible plastic.
The fund’s goal is to drive the growth of the flexible plastic recycling market by financially incentivizing consumers to drop off their flexible plastic waste at collection points that will be erected at participating retailers. The Flexible Plastic Fund guarantees each participant $142 per metric ton of recycled product—but only if the plastic they submit is “definitely recycled.”
They determine this by tracking each piece of plastic as it is collected and transported to approved recycling facilities where it will be turned into high-quality packaging. Major retailers like Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have signed up to install plastic collection points in several of their storefronts.
In the long run, the fund hopes to help build a circular and transparent UK-based flexible plastic recycling market that would normalize flexible plastic collection in everyone’s homes.