UK laundry industry responsible for almost 11,000 tonnes of plastic packaging every year


New research has found annual production of plastic laundry packs has hit approximately 10,791 tonnes per year despite environmental pledges by the UK’s biggest brands to cut back.

The findings from eco-effective cleaning brand, smol, reveal that approximately 109 million plastic laundry packs were sold in 2021 – leading to claims of greenwashing from laundry’s biggest brands, which smol says are relying on ineffective recycling to tackle the issue.

With an annual average of 270 household washes, this puts pressure on consumers to tackle the issue when they dispose of the packaging at home.

The pledges of laundry brands do not go far enough to tackle the UK’s plastic problem.

smol says that whilst the UK’s leading laundry brands have committed to reducing the use of virgin plastics, their pledges fall short of a complete overhaul – with the majority only making moves to switch to post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics, despite the availability of sustainable alternatives.

As a result of the findings, smol is calling on the industry to help turn the tide on plastic and commit to cardboard packaging alternatives.

Co-founder of smol, Nick Green, said: “The pledges of laundry brands do not go far enough to tackle the UK’s plastic problem. With sustainable packaging alternatives in the form of cardboard available now, this is a case of putting profit before people.

“Both P&G and Unilever have pledged to halve the use of virgin plastic materials, however, this still means 50% virgin plastics entering the system and, PCR or not, still means a 100% plastic pack left for customers to recycle.

“The industry continues to place the onus on the customer by relying too heavily on household recycling, but we know that the majority of plastic packaging is still not being recycled, with only 12% recycled in the UK, and only a 9% recycle rate worldwide.

In a bid to help other brands bring their customers’ sustainable packaging solutions, smol says it is offering its own team’s expertise in creating cardboard alternatives, free of charge.

In 2020, smol says it created a “world first” 100% plastic-free packaging for laundry capsules, made from FSC-sourced cardboard. The laundry brand continues that by swapping to smol for laundry and dishwasher tablets, refillable sprays and reusable bottles, the average household can save the equivalent of over 80 plastic bottles in a year.

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