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Black Plastic Packaging Progress Released by Forum

A cross-industry group, set up to address the barriers and challenges preventing the recycling of black plastic packaging, has released a new report

The Black Plastic Packaging Recycling Forum, led by RECOUP and formed in 2017, released the report to provide an update on the market situation for the recycling of black plastics.

In 2017, 35,500 tonnes of un-detectable black plastic packaging was placed on the market in the UK, meaning that the plastic was unable to be sorted. This has now been revised to an estimated 24,000 tonnes as a result of technical solutions being implemented. The forum has set an ambition to reduce the amount being placed on the market to 12,000 tonnes by the end of 2019.

The report states that there are a number of solutions for the recycling of black plastics, either available or in development, including the use of transparent packaging or alternative detectable colours, use of detectable black pigments, and development of sorting technology for the existing carbon black packaging. It highlights a range of ongoing individual and collective actions, which is expected to cut the undetectable black packaging coming into the market by the end of 2019. Given one solution is detectable black pigment, it also appears that specifically excluding or highlighting black packaging as a problem colour will no longer be valid.

Stuart Foster, RECOUP CEO commented, “Despite the inevitable politics and positioning behind issues such as black plastic packaging recycling, our role at RECOUP is to bring the various groups and stakeholders together to make practical steps forward. I hope we have helped to avoid knee jerk reactions to the challenge of improving plastic recycling potential, and instead have turned ambitions and collaborative thinking into actual long-term solutions.”

Paul East, RECOUP Packaging Technologist and project leader added “We appreciate it can take time to deliver the changes needed to improve recyclability, but there is no reason why all plastic packaging can’t adopt the basic principle that it must not inhibit the sorting or recycling process, as part of the design specifications. As shown in the new report, removing or coming out of black in favour of a transparent pack or detectable colour has been seen as the quickest solution in many cases, and therefore most popular. To balance this, the report also includes the potentially important role of black and darker plastic as a base colour as we move towards the requirement for greater recycled content.”

RECOUP says that work is still ongoing, but the report provides an overview of the options, including details of a range of independent projects undertaken in 2019.

The full report is available to download on the RECOUP website.

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