Beverage giant Lucozade Ribena Suntory (LRS) has unveiled plans to redesign its range of Ribena bottles so that they can be easily recycled within the UK’s existing waste management facilities.
The move will see the company’s best-selling product, the 500ml Ribena bottle, redesigned first, with the flexible plastic outer sleeve set to be made smaller and more transparent. Research suggests that outer labels covering less than 60% of the bottle are easier to be detected and correctly sorted.
These alterations, the firm claims, will enable automated sorting machines in UK recycling facilities to identify the packaging more accurately, ensuring that the bottles are recycled rather than incinerated.
Once this initial redesign is complete, tweaks are also set to be made to LRS’s wider Ribena range, as the firm strives to achieve its WRAP UK Plastics Pact pledge of making all plastic packaging 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
LRS has been using 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics to house its Ribena lines since 2008 – a move which has prevented the production of more than 40,000 tonnes of virgin plastic packaging – and also sources 100% recycled PET for its 420ml Ribena Frusion lines.
The redesign builds on this progress and comes shortly after the company revealed plans to lightweight its plastic bottles and develop a behaviour change scheme around carton and straw recycling. It also follows the launch of LRS’s Lucozade Sport Fitwater range, which was designed from the outset with bottle-to-bottle recycling in mind.
“LRS takes its sustainability commitments very seriously and we are extremely proud to be announcing this packaging redesign to ensure our brands continue to be as sustainable as possible,” LRS’s director of sustainability and external affairs Michelle Norman said.
“While we continue to make positive changes to our brands it is important that wider changes are made by companies like us, government and industry to ensure recycling rates in the UK can continue to increase.”
WRAP’s director Peter Maddox welcomed the announcement as a “proactive step to minimise LRS’s impact of the environment” and to boost bottle reprocessing rates.
Bridging the recyclability gap
The announcement from LRS comes at a time when the UK currently has just one-third of the infrastructure needed to process 100% of its own recyclable plastic waste, according to Policy Connect. The think tank argues that pressure on existing facilities is only set to increase as more developing nations implement recycling market closures or sanctions – unless “urgent” action is taken by policymakers.
The good news is that the issue of plastics recycling and the UK’s capacity has undeniably risen up the political agenda in recent months, with MPs now urging policymakers to implement laws which stop the UK from “passing the plastic buck” to the world’s poorest communities.
And, in a bid to spur further action on the issue, businesses such as Princes and Danone have pledged to reduce their reliance on export packaging recovery notes (PRNs) and therefore contribute more funding to improving UK infrastructure, while LRS is now lobbying the Government to provide more policy-level support. More widely, however, around 48% of all PRN purchases by UK-based companies are still believed to be made abroad.
Other businesses have taken a different approach to the challenge by focusing on developing and funding innovative recycling solutions within the UK. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer (M&S), for example, recently collaborated with recycling and packaging production firm Viridor to introduce a solution for hard-to-recycle black plastic that places recycled content into food-grade packaging.
A further approach has been the avoidance of fossil-fuel based plastics altogether, with the likes of LRS, Selfridges and Just Eat now using edible seaweed sachets as an alternative to single-use plastic sauce pots and drinks bottles as other firms plump for refill and reuse models.