RECOUP Question the Growing Trend for Material Switching

Plastics Recycling Charity, RECOUP, has been at the forefront of the debate regarding the trend of material switching under the guise of plastics reduction strategies. In some cases, this is done without consideration for the effect on overall recyclability.  When packaging is assessed in isolation rather than as part of the overall supply chain, citizens can be lulled into a false sense of security regarding recyclability and environmental sustainability claims.

To highlight some of these critical issues, RECOUP has produced a set of case studies demonstrating the problems and how improvements can be made to ensure maximum recovery while minimising the impact on the environment.  It is essential that any claims made concerning sustainability are valid and not ‘greenwashing.’

Kate Bedford, Packaging Project Manager, explained, “There is a need to make brand owners and packaging designers aware of the factors which need to be considered when looking at changing material. Case Studies communicate what is required.”  

Paul East, Head of Packaging, Recycling, and Design at RECOUP, added, “a growing number of companies are following the trend to change material types to claim improved sustainability and recyclability; however, there are instances when product claims are in danger of lulling consumers into believing such switches are an improvement when in some examples this is not the case.

Recyclability By Design

The RECOUP ‘Recyclability By Design’ case studies illustrate to users and designers of plastic packaging how Design for Recyclability principles can be applied to ensure that their packaging can be recycled and display accurate messaging to the consumer.   The Case Studies give examples of packaging where the switch of material works counter to the recyclability and circularity of the packaging.   Illustrations highlight the issues with multi-material packagings such as laminated paper bottles and trays.   Often the pack had the best chance of being recycled and recovered in its original state, thus questioning to what purpose the swap was made.

It is envisaged that the topic will be keenly debated at the RECOUP Conference on 29th September.   Registrations can be made both for the Conference and pre-conference dinner at

The case study is available to RECOUP members only, and any organisations wishing to join RECOUP are encouraged to contact for further information.


Read more news from RECOUP here.

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