Two-thirds of plastic in packaging pots and trays unrecyclable

Manufacturers must scrap the “smorgasbord” of plastics which are used in packaging for key foods so that Bromley Council can reduce waste sent to landfill and increase recycling, Bromley Lib Dems are warning.

Analysis from the Local Government Association suggests that only a third of plastic used by households is able to be recycled. It found 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are used by households a year but just 169,145 tonnes of this waste is able to be recycled.

The Lib Dems are calling for manufacturers to work with councils, including Bromley, to develop a plan to stop unrecyclable packaging from entering the environment in the first place. 

Packaging for food can be made from a variety of polymers – molecules which make up plastic – which need to be separated before being recycled. And some are harder than others to recycle.

Plastic SoupFor example, fruit and vegetable punnets are typically made from three different types of polymers. Microwave meals are predominately black plastic material – which is particularly difficult to separate and recycle - for no other reason than ‘it looks better.’

In order to increase recycling rates, it’s essential that manufacturers prevent materials entering the environment which hamper recycling efforts. Lib Dem campaigner Rich Wilsher said, “It isn’t as if change is hard. By simply making many plastics out of the same type of polymer as water bottles, they would become completely recyclable.”

Rich continued, “It’s time for manufacturers to stop letting a smorgasbord of unrecyclable and damaging plastic flow into our environment. And if they don’t want to get serious about producing material which can be recycled and protect our environment, then they should at least contribute towards the cost that local taxpayers have to pay to clear it up. The Government should consider banning low-grade plastics, particularly those for single use, in order to increase recycling, which will help preserve our environment for generations to come.”


  1. Margarine and ice cream tubs. This packaging contains a polymer which is extremely difficult to recycle. An alternative to this could be making them out of plastic used for water bottles which can be easily recycled.
  2. Microwave meal and meat packaging. These materials can be re-sorted and recycled easily, but need to be sorted using an optical scanner beforehand. The optical scanner can sort this material from any other colour other than black, yet manufacturers intentionally choose to use black packaging for aesthetic reasons. Changing the colour of these trays could lead to a real increase in recycling.
  3. Fruit and vegetable punnets. Though simple in design, these punnets are complex in construction, with three polymers used in the construction of them. The Lib Dems are calling for a simpler design using recyclable materials.
  4. Yoghurt pots. These are usually a mixture of two polymers which are difficult to recycle. Some companies now use yoghurt pots made out of the same material that is used for plastic bottles, making them easily recyclable.
  5. Bakery goods trays. The lining which is used to house cakes and baked goods contains two difficult-to-recycle polymers. More recyclable materials are available to store baked goods.

Learn more:

Click here to learn more about different types of plastic recycling.

Click here to sign our petition to stop plastic pollution in the oceans.

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