Posted: 12/06/2023

Somerset and Newcastle Join the UK’s Largest Flexible Plastic Household Collection and Recycling Pilot

Somerset Council and Newcastle City Council are the latest local authorities to join the FPF FlexCollect flexible plastic collection pilot this Spring.

As part of the pilot, over 3,600 homes in Somerset and 5,000 homes in Newcastle will have the opportunity to recycle flexible plastics such as plastic bags, wrappers, packets, and films as part of normal kerbside recycling collections. The collections will expand to more residents in both locations over the next two years.

Newcastle and Somerset join South Gloucestershire, Cheltenham and Maldon Councils, with both local authorities offering advantages and learnings to the FPF FlexCollect project with their contrasting demographics and collection systems. An additional four local authorities are set to join FPF FlexCollect in 2023, further increasing the scope of the project and the amount of flexible packaging sent for recycling.

Newcastle launched on 5th June and provides residents with a fortnightly twin stream collection with glass collected separately, while Somerset, which launched on the 22nd May, offers a weekly source segregated collection. Residents in both locations will be provided with a new blue collection bag to collect their flexible plastics, before placing in their existing recycling container to be pulled out at the material recycling facility.

With only 8% of flexible plastics currently collected from home, the pilot is providing insights to inform industry and local authorities ahead of the introduction of compulsory UK-wide kerbside collections planned for 2027.

To tackle this issue, key players in the industry, including manufacturers and brands, stepped up to the challenge and set up the Flexible Plastic Fund. The Fund was launched in 2021 and is collaboratively funded and supported by the following UK organisations: Abel & Cole, Ella’s Kitchen, Kiddylicious, Koninklijke Douwe Egberts, KP Snacks, Lotus Bakeries, Mars UK, McCain Foods, Mondelēz International, Natural Balance Foods, Nestlé, Ocado Retail, PepsiCo, The Collective, Unilever, United Biscuits and Vitaflo.

The £3m FPF FlexCollect project was launched in May 2022 and is co-managed by a consortium comprising the project co-funders, Ecosurety, RECOUP, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK and WRAP. The project has been the principal focus for the FPF which is the majority funder, with the remaining funding coming from Defra, UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge and Zero Waste Scotland.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We all need to do our bit to reduce waste, and I’m delighted to see local authorities from almost the furthest corners of England taking part in this exciting scheme. These pilots and the work of Somerset and Newcastle councils will improve our understanding of how to drive up recycling rates for some of the most difficult plastics, potentially helping all of us recycle more.”

Gareth Morton, spokesperson for FPF FlexCollect and Discovery Manager at Ecosurety said: “We are pleased to see the FPF FlexCollect project building steadily, with now five local authorities on board to help us gain valuable insights into how to successfully collect and recycle post-consumer flexible plastics from households. We are looking forward to share openly our initial learnings at the end of this year so the UK can prepare for widespread collections by 2027.”

Councillor Sarah Dyke, Lead Member for Environment and Climate Change at Somerset Council, said: “We’ve expanded kerbside collections and our recycling rate has never been higher – we’ve a lot to be proud of in Somerset and joining this trial was the natural next step. We’re committed to making our county more sustainable and excited to be playing our part in shaping the future of recycling across the UK.”

Cllr Jane Byrne, Newcastle City Council Cabinet member for a Connected, Clean City, said, “Improving the quality of recycling and reducing waste are among our key priorities so I am delighted more than 5,000 homes in Newcastle will be taking part in this exciting trial. The pilot supports the fantastic work we are doing to improve recycling rates in the city, from engaging with communities to highlight the importance of recycling to reducing contamination through the use of indoor recycling smart bags.”

Thomas Merry, Commercialisation and Innovation Manager for SUEZ recycling and recovery UK and FPF Project Director, said “The addition of Somerset and Newcastle to the FPF FlexCollect project complements the current pilots well, with the urban inner-city area of Newcastle and Somerset’s rural population providing an interesting contrast with the pilot areas already up and running. This will build on our learnings so far, providing valuable insight into participation rates and volumes from different communities.”

Steve Morgan, Head of Policy & Infrastructure at RECOUP added: “We’re delighted to see two more Local Authorities on board. The diversity of the urban inner-city area of Newcastle and rural population in Somerset will provide invaluable insight to collect and recycle post-consumer flexible plastics. RECOUP continue to lead on two key areas of the project – both on understanding of the composition of the collected material and recycling end markets. We are learning a lot and FlexCollect continues to be a fascinating project for us.”

About FPF FlexCollect

FPF FlexCollect is a £3m pilot to collect and recycle flexible plastic packaging from households in the UK. Initiated and led by the Flexible Plastic Fund (FPF), and including some of the UK’s leading manufacturers, the project benefits from the cross-industry expertise of leading industry and government partners, including Defra, Ecosurety, UK Research and Innovation Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Challenge, SUEZ recycling and recovery UK, RECOUP, LARAC, WRAP and Zero Waste Scotland.

The other local authorities that are already part of the project include Cheltenham Borough Council, South Gloucestershire Council and Maldon District Council.

About The Flexible Plastic Fund

The Flexible Plastic Fund is a collaborative fund giving value to flexible plastic films, so they are properly recycled. Managed by market-leading producer responsibility compliance scheme Ecosurety, the Fund was established in May 2021 by five founding partners: Mars UK, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever. Partners of the Fund now include Abel & Cole, Ella’s Kitchen, Kiddylicious, Koninklijke Douwe Egberts, KP Snacks, Lotus Bakeries, McCain Foods, Natural Balance Foods, Ocado Retail, The Collective, United Biscuits and Vitaflo.

In collaboration with manufacturers, retailers and recyclers, the Fund intends to improve flexible plastic recycling and reduce plastic pollution by giving the material a stable value. This will in turn increase the supply of recycled plastic for the industry to become more ‘circular’. This will motivate investment in much-needed jobs and infrastructure to make flexible plastic recycling a financially sustainable system in the UK. Through supporting the Flexible Plastic Fund, partners will contribute to system-wide progress driving towards household collection of this valuable material and ultimately closing the loop on flexible plastic production. Find out more: