LCA PLA Politics & Legislation Reports & Studies

Tenfold Increase Forecast for Compostables

A report commissioned by the Biomass Biorefinery Network (BBNet) has highlighted the major potential for compostable packaging in the UK, with significant direct and indirect economic benefits possible as a result of greater adoption.

The UK government is currently reviewing its regulations and policies relating to plastics packaging as part of a revised Waste and Resources Strategy. One important adjunct to this is the UK Plastics Pact (UKPP) initiative announced a year ago in April 2018, which is aiming to create a circular economy for plastics.

The UKPP has set targets of 100 per cent of plastics packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025, with 70 per cent of this packaging being effectively recycled or composted.

Current estimates suggest that there are between 8,000-10,000 tonnes of compostable packaging already on the UK market. However, this represents less than 1 per cent of all consumer plastics packaging. BBNet’s report identifies a potential tenfold increase in the UK’s compostable packaging market to over 100,000 tonnes by 2025, which could drive value in excess of £267 million ($348m) annually to the UK bioeconomy.

The report conducted a lifecycle assessment into the production of typical bioplastics, namely PLA, compared to a petroleum-based equivalent polyethylene (LDPE). The analysis found that PLA has the potential to have a lower environmental impact than recycled LDPE.

Professor Simon McQueen-Mason from the University of York and director of the BBNet Network, said: “One of the main enablers behind the potential growth of the UK compostables market is the availability of sustainable bioresource feedstocks. Our research found that the UK has an abundance of renewable bioresources to supply the biochemicals needed to produce a range of biopolymers. In fact, when compared to the proposed growth of compostable packaging there is approximately 100 times more bioresources available in the UK.”

Paul Mines, chief executive of Biome Bioplastics and member of BBNet’s Management Board, added:“On the first anniversary of the UK Plastics Pact and with only six years to meet the ambitious 2025 targets, it’s time to set-out detailed plans for definitive action in describing both packaging types and the supportive recycling and composting infrastructure required. The Plastics in the Bioeconomy report estimates a tenfold increase of sustainable compostable plastics to a 7 per cent packaging market share by 2025 and an approximate fourfold increase in recycling infrastructure.”

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This article was published on plasticsinpackaging.com