The New Plastics Economy: Is Manufacturing Pulling Its Weight?


Plastic will never become waste or pollution – that’s the vision of a New Plastics Economy. Instead, it will be reusable, recyclable or compostable. In order to create this vision, we need to eliminate problematic plastics, innovate new material and circulate the items we use to keep them out of the environment.

With a 2018 study revealing two-thirds of plastic food pots are unrecyclable, it seems that we’re still a long way from such an idealistic world. This has led many to question whether food and drink manufacturers are pulling their weight to help the environment. Here, we explore how exactly they are playing their part…

The role of plastic

Plastic is vital for the food and drink industry. With many goods sourced from outside the UK, plastic is necessary to ensure that products can travel long distances safely. The material also helps food last longer, meaning there’s less food waste.

Consumers increasingly want things to be quicker. And, when it comes to eating and drinking habits, there’s no exception. Ready-to-go meals are now more popular than ever, but this comes at a cost to the environment – single-use packaging.

There’s also the issue of the type of plastic used. Both manufacturers and consumers benefit from plastic that’s more pliable, multi-material and lightweight – it reduces costs. However, this is incredibly difficult to recycle, and in some instances cannot be recycled at all.

The commitment of manufacturers

Awareness around how manufacturing contributes to the plastic problem has resulted in consumers demanding zero waste. In response to this, 250 organisations including Nestlé and The Coca-Cola Company have joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.

These companies have pledged to remove any challenging or unnecessary plastic from their processes, and step away from single-use materials. Any plastic packaging they do utilise will be circulated so that it’s reused or recycled to produce new packaging or goods.

PET plastic could be a solution. While it does often lack recyclability, it can be turned into rPET which is a lot more recyclable. There is still the drawback of the energy involved in creating products, which ultimately has a negative impact on the environment.

A joint solution

But there is an alternative available. Carbios have pioneered a technology which allows for a larger range of PET plastic, as well as polyester fibres feedstock, to be recycled. Plus, there’s no pressure or solvents involved, and a restricted amount of heat, reducing environmental effects. It’s already seen success, with a world first recently reached: PET bottles manufactured from 100% recycled plastic. And now, Nestlé Waters and PepsiCo have partnered with Carbios to improve their own processes.

With big food and drink manufacturing names joining forces to create a more circular plastics economy, and high street retailers trialling packaging free stores,  it’s likely that others will soon follow. Those who don’t, risk being left behind. And, in order to stay up to date with competitors, the right personnel will be a necessity.

This is where Silven comes in. Whether you’re sourcing new talent or looking for a role in food and drink manufacturing, we can meet your requirements. We’re always up to date with developments and have successfully placed a number of interim and permanent packaging specialists to help with this specific issue. Plus, our network is full of these candidates, which will significantly speed up your recruitment, in an area that is typically a candidate short market. With Silven you can guarantee that you’ll always stay ahead too.

To find out how exactly we can help you, simply contact us today.