How we are giving recyclable plastics a new lease of life

With the help of our innovative closed-loop solutions, we are finding ways to reduce the manufacturing industry’s reliance on virgin plastics and help businesses meet their sustainability goals.

In total over 65 million tonnes of plastic is produced in Europe each year. 40% of this is used in packaging, 20% is produced for the building and construction industry. This means that these two sectors combined are responsible for 39 million tonnes of plastic produced in the EU each year. And, despite the public’s increasing concerns about plastic consumption, a huge amount is still being sent to incineration or landfill - or worse ends up in our oceans.

The challenge

According to Recyclenow, the UK alone is using around 20 times more plastic than 50 years ago and only 9% of all the plastic produced since 1950 has ever been recycled. Not only does the low level of plastic recycling mean big losses for the economy, but it is also damaging our environment with the production and incineration of plastic emitting about 400 million tonnes of CO2 globally each year.

The solution

There are key ways to reduce the plastic waste problem: reuse, reduce, recycle & replace. To meet the over-arching targets detailed in commitments like the WRAP Plastics Pact or the EU Plastics Strategy, the problem needs to be broken down into actionable parts.

At DS Smith, sustainability is at the heart of our entire business model and is central to delivering on our Purpose. We are tackling the problem of plastic on two fronts;

  1. Creating sustainable alternatives to the plastic used in packaging,
  2. Finding closed-loop solutions for flexible and rigid plastics that ensure they are recycled into new products and packaging.

We work with specialist plastic recyclers such as Plaswood to produce high-quality recycled plastics from LDPE and retail plastics collected from our customers.

Jonathan Edmunds
Recyclability and Sustainability Manager at DS Smith

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we wanted to help our wider community during this challenging time. We were approached by the Cwm Taf Morgannwg Research, Improvement, and Innovation Co-ordination Hub and CTMUHB who were looking for local organisations to partner with to create a nice environment for patients at the newly created temporary hospital in Bridgend, named Ysbyty’r Seren. 

We decided to make a charitable donation of Plaswood benches made from recycled plastic for use around the field hospital gardens. Our benches are located at an outside art trail that is used to provide stimulation and "soft" respiratory and musculoskeletal physiotherapy to help patients with their recovery.


This creative partnership ensures long-lasting products can be used to promote health and wellbeing in an innovative, sustainable manner

Joanne Sullivan
Local Authority Engagement Officer at Research, Improvement and Innovation Co-Ordination (RIIC) Hub, Cwm Taf Morgannwg Regional Partnership Board

''The use of recycled, sustainable plastic benches in the garden will provide welcome rest areas for patients and staff as they follow the Art trail from inside the hospital to outside.''

We created these hospital benches from DS Smith recycled plastic. We’ve worked with DS Smith for over 10 years, sharing sustainability objectives of manufacturing recyclable or reusable products, reducing waste to landfill and reducing CO2 emissions.

Katherine Lorek-Wallace,
General Manager Plaswood

What are the benefits?

Plastic has long been a solution for both packaging and construction materials and it will continue to have an important role to play. However, we must continue to look at utilising more easily recycled alternatives whilst simultaneously creating a better recycling infrastructure for the plastics we do use.

We are always looking for opportunities to close the loop and keep materials in the supply chain longer. So since the benches are made from 100% recycled plastics and once they reach the end of their life, they can be recycled into new products again.

Jonathan Edmunds added ''This is a great solution for flexible plastics such as LDPE, as it is essentially upcycling the waste into a higher value product. Which is why, wherever possible, we encourage our recycling customers to segregate plastics by polymer and by colour to greatly improve the quality, value and recyclability to make circular projects like this posible''.

Through our European network of partners, we are working to both reduce society’s dependence on plastics and increase the plastics recycling rate. We can recycle all common polymers and packaging, from PET to PS, HDPE to LDPE, as well as complex plastic wastes, such as PA, PC, ABS, PC-ABS, POM and more.

By working with DS Smith, you can be sure your plastics won’t end up in landfill or exported overseas. We provide full traceability for your material and we ensure it is transported and recycled legally and ethically. More than 75% of our plastics stay within the UK for reprocessing and manufacturing and the remaining 25% is recycled with end-users of plastic in Europe. We do not allow any plastics to go either directly, or indirectly to deep-sea markets in Asia.

Whether it’s reducing unwanted plastic waste, reaching zero waste to landfill or finding more sustainable alternatives for construction materials, we have the experience and expertise to give plastics a new lease of life.