Black Plastic Packaging Recycling Forum

Date Published: Monday 25th September 2017


A cross-industry group has agreed a range of new actions and commitments to tackle the long-standing challenge of recycling black plastic packaging.

This will enable this valuable plastic fraction to be recycled back into a raw material source, resulting in less waste and improved resource efficiency. The work is being conducted through reviewing available and developing sorting technologies and recycling markets to understand optimal opportunities, and implementing feasible, commercial long-term sustainable solutions.

Collaborating across the supply chain, the group includes members from packaging manufacturers, packers, brands and retailers, to material re-processors, trade associations and independent specialists.

Roadmap to Success

Led by plastic recycling charity RECOUP, the group has developed a Black Plastic Packaging Recycling Roadmap, and is actively assessing and progressing actions within three overarching objectives:

  • Roll out the use of tried and tested detectable pigment;
  • Develop business models and new technology solutions to sort existing black plastic packaging material;
  • Assess and implement opportunities to change from black to an alternative colour.

Meeting these objectives will enable the collection, sorting and recycling of black plastic packaging, and the development of sustainable solutions which can be embraced by all members of the supply and recycling chain. This includes end market development, which is essential to ensure demand is created to enable the value of this material to be fully realised.

Our Commitment

The group has made clear a commitment to the industry and public to:

“Find sustainable solutions by the end of 2018 that will enable the recycling of all black plastic packaging bottles, pots, tubs and trays.”

This will be delivered within the Black Plastics Packaging Recycling Roadmap with representatives from all sectors engaged with ongoing activities to explore available and new opportunities, including:

  • Building on previous work, assessing the impacts of black plastic packaging items and use of detectable black packaging on material sorting facilities;
  • Developing a defined roll out of detectable pigment;
  • Encouraging and enabling technical providers to develop sorting and reprocessing solutions;
  • Testing the viability of using different colours and shades to ensure any changes of pack colour will demonstrably improve detectability for recycling;
  • Assessing new alternative sorting solutions;
  • Researching and testing closed and open loop end markets.

All of this will feed into best practice guidance for brands, retailers and Local Authorities on how they should collect and use black plastic packaging.

Get Involved

Further developments and progress will be reported by the end of 2017, with the next group meeting to be held in the coming weeks.

If you would like to find out more please speak to a member of the RECOUP team on: 01733 390021.



Stuart Foster, CEO, RECOUP

“Despite the in-evitable politics and positioning behind issues such as black plastic recycling, our role at RECOUP is to bring the various groups and stakeholders together to make practical steps forward and build on the great work of individual organisations to date. The ultimate aim is to drive black plastic recycling forwards in a practical and sensible way, turning ambitions and collaborative thinking into actual delivery.”


Dr Mark Caul, Packaging Technical Manager, Tesco

Tesco fully support the need to find a solution for collecting and recycling black plastics. We welcome the leadership from RECOUP to co-ordinate a complex supply and recycling chain. It is imperative to find a commercial solution so that consumers are not affected, and in the true spirit of sustainability, the solution will have an overall benefit on the environment as well as social impacts. We must create a closed loop food safe recycling infrastructure so that the materials are recycled back into packaging materials, as retailers and packaging companies wish to reuse the materials.  We have already worked together to show that if we can get these materials back, that they can be reused, in line with what Tesco does for so many other materials. This is simply the right thing to do.


Helen Jordan, British Plastic Federation and the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan

“This cross-industry group is a positive strive towards ensuring a circular economy for black plastic packaging. The work contributes towards the plastic industry’s overall commitment through the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan (PIRAP) of increasing plastic recycling.“


Paul Vanston, Chief Executive, INCPEN

“The technical viability of recycling black plastics has been known for some years following the regional trial in 2013 involving Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, the Kent Resource Partnership, RECOUP, WRAP, Nextek and the waste management sector.  What has been more difficult is securing agreement across the whole supply chain on the economic viability.  This new commitment by so many organisations, including INCPEN and many of our members, is a brilliant example of how seemingly intractable problems can lead to being solved when everyone works together.  For customers and councils, delivering this commitment in 2018 will be a ‘win win’ on ease and consistency of recycling up and down the country.”


Marcus Gover, WRAP, CEO

“WRAP has been working for a long time to make black plastic packaging recyclable. We have a solution which means that we can produce black plastic packaging that can be detected in the sorting process and recycled. We now need the whole industry to take up that solution – from packaging producer and retailer to waste manager and recycler. This commitment to do that is welcomed and I look forward to seeing the action that will follow.  Citizens want their black plastic packaging to be recyclable. Together, we now need to make that happen.”


Lubna Edwards, Group Sustainability Director, LINPAC Packaging

“The black plastic packaging recycling forum represents a huge step forward in utilising black plastic as a valuable resource in the UK. Achieving greater sustainability through resource efficiency and recycling is a serious global issue and it is increasingly important that businesses and organisations, such as RECOUP, collaborate to generate meaningful change for the future. By working together with other members of the group, we at LINPAC will continue to develop black plastic tray solutions that support recyclability potential and the end-market use of our trays. It’s exciting that we’ll see very real progress by as soon as the end of 2018.”


Jeremy Blake, Head of Recycling Assets (Polymers), Viridor

“Viridor believes that black plastic recycling is one of the biggest challenges facing the sector today and we are committed to finding a sustainable solution to this challenge. Our own research shows the public increasingly expects sustainable recycling for all packaging. After a great deal of research, and several technical trials with packaging manufacturers and retailers, Viridor is convinced that a regional trial is the best next step in developing a sustainable national solution. This will allow all sectors to work together to prove the recyclability of a new detectable form of black packaging. With collaboration from all sectors, this is the key to the sustainable solution everyone wants to achieve. The issue with much of the current black plastic on the market is that it features a carbon black pigment which makes it problematic to sort from other recyclable material, even in sophisticated plastic materials recycling facilities (PRFs) such as Viridor’s £12.5 million facility at Rochester in Kent.”


Kevin Vyse, Senior Packaging Technologist / Circular Economy and Innovation Lead, M&S

“M&S have been involved in the work to recycle CPET from the very earliest inception of the project and with WRAP, Nextek, Bakkavor and Sainsbury we proved that the use of a detectable die in a CPET would not have any detrimental effect on consumer perception nor on product performance whilst rendering the trays findable in the waste stream. The continued efforts to find a commercially effective way of now recovering those trays continues and we are encouraged by the recent dialogue between the various stake holders and believe we are close to a workable solution now. M&S continue to support this RECOUP led workstream and are ready to play our part in trials and roll out when needed.”


Iain Ferguson, Environment Manager, Co-op

“We know that the issue of black plastic and ready-meal trays is one of the most challenging recycling problems faced by the industry, and bringing key industry stakeholders together to co-operate and develop a solution for this complex problem is the way forward as we work towards our ambition of making 100% of our packaging easy to recycle.”


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