How can we move towards a sustainable use of plastic? Plastic plays a big part in our daily lives, but its detrimental effect on the environment regularly makes the headlines.  Our guests share how this is being tackled by business alongside NGOs such as WRAP, and what we can do to help.

Helen Bird, Business Lead Head, WRAP

Helen is responsible for WRAP‘s award-winning voluntary agreements across food, textiles, and plastics. Since 2005, WRAP has led voluntary commitments with a history of rapid transformation, tackling some of the planet’s biggest environmental challenges. Within Helen’s team are the technical experts who develop the evidence and strategies of the voluntary agreements, working in tandem with a team of passionate business account managers to ensure rapid action where it matters most. And while business activity is at the heart of the commitments, it is supported by WRAP’s work on citizen behaviour change, local authority services, and government policy.

Helen has always been passionate about sustainability and has worked in the circular economy field for more than 14 years. She has a track record of convening stakeholders from across the value chain to achieve a shared objective. Many in the industry will be familiar with Helen as the driving force behind The UK Plastics Pact. Prior to settling in the field of sustainability, Helen held marketing roles, including in the food manufacturing sector.

Lucy Reynolds, CSR Communications VP, Boots

Lucy is Vice President and Director of Communications and ESG at Boots. She is responsible for external and internal communications, as well as ESG and sustainability, championing Boots‘ core messages to customers, team members, the media, and wider stakeholders. She also leads WBA corporate communications for the UK. 

Lucy has been instrumental in the development of Boots’ CSR partnerships with The Hygiene Bank, The Prince’s Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.

Before joining Boots in January 2020, Lucy was Head of External Communications at Vodafone, focusing on strategic communications and reputation transformation. Prior to this she spent 12 years at Jaguar Land Rover in multiple global senior roles. Lucy started her career in communications as a graduate with GSK.

Lee Man, Head of Community Fairtrade and Regenerative Sourcing, The Body Shop

Lee joined The Body Shop in 1998 and is responsible for managing The Body Shop’s bespoke fair trade programme. Lee manages relationships with producer groups across the world who supply The Body Shop with high quality ingredients, gifts and accessory handcraft products.

With a particular interest in innovation, Lee recently introduced recycled plastic into the Community Fair Trade programme.  It is being integrated into The Body Shop’s product packaging, adding increased value to the plastic that already exists in the world. This world first fairly traded recycled plastic is sourced from the streets of cities and towns in southern India. The project will benefit over 2,500 marginalized waste pickers annually providing a fair and predictable price, and access to better working conditions.

Conversation summary:

  • The problems with plastic lie: using it excessively, unrecyclable materials, lack of infrastructure, poor design, devastation when it leaks into the environment.
  • Protecting products is paramount – because they have an even bigger carbon footprint.
  • Predictions that by 20250, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish (Ellen MacArthur Foundation).
  • Only 10% of plastic that’s ever been produced has been recycled.
  • 5% of world’s oil production is used for plastic, amounting to 4% greenhouse gasses.
  • Lucy: Boots’ survey found that plastic is the number concern for their customers.
  • People can recycle any health and beauty packaging in (participating) Boots stores, and they gain advantage points for doing so.
  • Lee: The Body Shop is moving towards having all packaging either repurposed, recycled or reused. Refill schemes exist within stores currently and are being rolled out further, globally.  The Body Shop bottles are 90% recycled material and recyclable. The company instigated the first fairly traded recycled plastic scheme.
  • Customers generally expect cost reductions for products that are less convenient e.g. refills. This makes the commercials challenging for businesses.
  • Wide-spread confusion over whether packaging can be recycled. Many labels are unclear and unusual for consumers. Different recycling infrastructure across different part of the UK is part of the issue.
  • Retailers have a responsibility to help customers know how to recycle – and make it easy for them to do so.
  • Lee: a third of the world’s population doesn’t have access to waste management infrastructure systems – but the UK’s waste leaks into these environments. The Body Shop plans for the whole packaging life-cycle to so that they avoid ending up in the environment.
  • Helen: It’s important that companies do say the impact of their product’s on the environment to help people make informed choices.
  • The role of regulation.
  • WRAP’s UK Plastic Pact – UK initiative which brings together actors in the value chain to tackle plastic waste.


Understanding recycling labels

OPRL – On Pack Recycling Label  

The Body Shop: Community Fair Trade Recycled Plastic

The Body Shop – Sustainability Commitments

Boots: Sustainable edits and label ‘B More’:

Further reading

According to the IDG, any environmental gains achieved by 2030 (from planned legislation and policy reforms) will be offset by an extra 10% of packaging put on the market, assuming sector growth of 1% increase year-on-year for all materials, as calculated by DEFRA.

Analysis by Greenpeace and Unpackaged Innovation Ltd recommends that if retailers are to reduce their plastic packaging by 50% by 2025, at least 25% of consumer packaging will need to be reusable. (89)

Analysis by Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found that the top 10 UK supermarkets actually increased their plastic footprints by 1.2% between 2017 and 2019, from 886,000 tonnes to nearly 897,000 tonnes. (Greenpeace)

For every tonne of new plastic manufactured it generates more than 3 x that in carbon emissions (WRAP).

Plastic waste makes up around 16% of residual waste but accounts for 70% of fossil emissions from energy from waste facilities (Viridor).