How can knowing your packaging's polymer help?

Knowing what polymer is used in packaging is becoming more important due to legislation and various agreements that aim for more recyclability on single use packaging. Olivia Candy, EPIC Analyst, explores why data collection is an important part of this process.

With the upcoming reforms of Extended Producer Responsibility, the UK Plastic Pact aiming to eliminate problem plastics by 2025 and the all-round heightened pressures placed on companies surrounding plastic use, polymer identification of packaging is becoming a crucial feature needing to be reported on.

Portable polymer reader increases accuracy

To help aid our customers with polymer identification, Valpak uses a portable polymer reader. The polymer reader works by using Near Infrared Technology to identify the polymers, this is a similar process used in some recycling plants to sort plastics. Another way of identifying polymers is by recording labels printed on the packaging or polymer information that had been given by suppliers, however this can be limited.

Through the polymer reader, Valpak can help members reach a higher coverage of polymer identification of up to 80% in comparison to just under 30% without it. Furthermore, through using the reader we are able to identify up to 90% of all films and labels which often go unlabelled with polymer information.

Polymer identification can help reduce costs

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reforms are being introduced in 2023 which will primarily see producers fund the full net costs of the end-of -line management of the packaging they place on the market. The EPR reforms will also introduce higher fees for producers putting packaging onto the UK market that is more difficult to recycle. With the upcoming EPR reforms, it is crucial to be able to identify the polymers in the packaging you are placing on the market to avoid being hit with higher fees. With help from the polymer reader, a higher coverage of polymer identification can be attained, this information can then be used in reducing/eliminating plastics that are hard to recycle to avoid being hit with higher fees when reforms come into play.

Furthermore, the Plastic Pact is looking to eliminate problematic plastics by 2025; for companies to be able to comply, it is essential that they can guarantee these plastics are not being used in packaging being placed onto the UK market. In order to make informed changes on packaging, accurate reporting on the polymers used is crucial.

If you are interested in understanding the polymers used in your packaging, please get in touch on [email protected]. We will also be running a webinar on how to report on your Plastic Pact progress on 16 June which you can sign up to here.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this weblog represent those of the individual authors and not those of Valpak Limited or any other organisation.