Use of Black Plastic in UK Packaging Continues to Drop

Date Published: Wednesday 15th April 2020

RECOUP has released the 2020 update to its Black Plastic Packaging Forum report, updating figures and guidance around the use of black plastic in packaging in the UK.  The report, produced as part of RECOUP’s Black Plastic working group, estimates that black packaging used in the UK has dropped from around 36,000 tonnes to 10,000 tonnes going into 2020.  This continually reducing figure means that black plastic now accounts for just 0.7% of consumer plastic packaging placed on the UK market each year.

These figures are announced as RECOUP continues to argue that all Black Plastic packaging should be recyclable in current, commercial scale recycling systems by 2025.

Stuart Foster, Chief Executive Officer RECOUP, said:  “The ultimate aim is to drive black plastic recycling forwards in a practical and sensible way, turning ambitions and collaborative thinking into actual delivery.”

Black Plastic is largely considered unrecyclable through commercial recycling systems due to the use of NIR (Near Infra-red) sorting systems in MRFs (Material Recycling Facilities) that are unable to identify the carbon black pigment. As such, most of the black plastic is sent for landfill or incineration. However, black plastic has historically been popular with packaging producers because it enables the use of skeletal waste, factory scrap and recycled plastic in products, without creating a colour which is considered unattractive to consumers.

Alternative solutions to black plastic, including the use of non-carbon black pigments and other coloured materials, have also helped to reduce the amount of unrecyclable material  The identification of end markets and solutions for the recyclate has also helped to drive value and interest in the recycling of black plastic in the last twelve months.

Paul East, RECOUP’s Packaging Sustainability Manager, commented “Black plastic has long been a challenge for plastic packaging producers and recyclers.  Whilst it has been an excellent way for producers to get recycled plastic into their packaging, it’s also long been incompatible with commercial sorting facilities.  Today, with changes to Extended Producer Responsibility on the horizon, it is the best time to finally resolve the issue of black plastics, through achieving a satisfactory level of recyclability."

The Black Plastic working group and subsequent report was generated as part of RECOUP’s Black Plastic Forum, set up in 2018, with the aim of improving the recyclability of black plastic.  



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