Our Approach to Sustainability

Hortipak supply all label and handle production to recycled materials by default.

In order to make things as simple as possible for the UK waste management and recycling systems, we primarily offer two mono-materials, recycled Polypropylene (rPP) and Eco3 - our exclusive recyclable, biodegradable highly water-resistant board.

We advocate recycling and also work closely with our customers to help them to avoid to any unintended consequences of change.

We do not recommend Polystyrene (PS), PVC, oxy/oxo/compostable PLA and biodegradable plastics, as these are all hard to recycle in the UK.

Below is information on our approach, policy, actions we have taken, material usage guidelines and some FAQs. We hope that you will find these to be useful references.

At a Glance:

We do not recommend Polystyrene (PS), PVC, oxy/oxo/compostable PLA and biodegradable plastics, as these are all hard to recycle in the UK

We recommend these materials:
1 - rPP for labels, locks and handles;
2 - Eco3 for tags and bedcards;
3- PEFC Paper for Seed Pockets and Promotional Print

All of our rPP production waste is separated and is recycled by local suppliers

We have pledged to the HTA's Sustainability Roadmap and are certified by ClimateCalc, the European graphic standard for carbon calculation

Our Approach to Material Use

Across the global supply chain, businesses need to make positive changes that do not simply push environmental and recycling problems from one type of material to other less-reusable or less-recyclable alternatives.
Whilst the media frequently displays headlines surrounding plastic packaging waste, the root cause is often littering or poor waste management. All materials can cause damage to the environment if misused and we should be careful not to demonise the material instead of the misuse.

Confusing jargon, inconsistent policies and poor product development hampers the public understanding, which makes it more difficult for consumers to grasp the issues and to make positive choices both when they shop and deal with their waste. There is no doubt that plastic has been misused and problematic/single-use plastics should be eliminated, and that littering causes serious environmental harm. However, ‘Plastic’ is a general term which covers many different polymers, each with different attributes that can be used compare against other material options. It should also be recognised that plastics have become so widespread because the are relatively lightweight, low cost and widely available – all of which are strong properties in material selection.

Therefore, whilst we all have a responsibility to find alternatives to single use and unrecyclable plastics, we must also take care not to treat all plastics in the same way so that each plastic is correctly valued and doesn’t pollute the environment.

Our Policy

At Hortipak we are committed to sustainability, minimising environmental impact, and reducing pollution. We do this by aligning with The UK Plastics Pact whilst meeting our clients’ technical and practical needs with optimised manufacturing solutions. We also consider the impact of transportation and the needs of the UK waste management systems.

Sustainability is complicated, there are grey areas and conflicting messages, nonetheless we want to be clear about what we use, what we don’t use, where we are on the journey and why:

  • We recommend recycling above all other options. Turning waste and existing resources into renewable resources are critical to the creation of a circular economy. Therefore, we actively design for recyclability: over 95% of the products that we manufacture at Hortipak’s are made from a recycled-grade plastic, widely recyclable and are designed to be reused.
  • As per our traffic light system, we do not recommend PVC, PS, biodegradable plastics, bioplastics, or laminate plastics, all of which are all hard to recycle in the UK and are therefore classed as ‘red’. These are all therefore classed as ‘problem plastics to be eliminated’ by key retailers and other key actors such as WRAP.
  • Hortipak uses mono-material recycled polypropylene (PP) (not laminates) which contains a minimum of 30% recycled content. This content is constrained by the availability of suitably high grade recyclate feeder stock, not our ability to add more recyclate to our sheets. Therefore, they are not eligible for the Plastic Packaging Tax. The Taupe (PP) pot was selected and developed using a similar approach and principles.
  • We mark all Hortipak manufactured products with the correct recycling/material (RIC) code to aid recycling (where clients allow).
  • We choose materials in consideration of the Red, Amber Green status on the material usage lists. Ask your account manager for more information.
  • We research and collaborate with other key actors, such as WRAP, Trade Federations and other Collaborative Action Groups, to actively avoid creating biased messages and ‘unintended consequences’ through reactionary development and/or greenwashing. Our marketing, production and purchasing teams work together and consider the longer-term benefits, not just to tick a box or meet our immediate sales targets.
  • We have pledged to support the HTA’s Sustainability Roadmap because, on balance, we also believe that is sensible to strive for what is best for People, Planet and Profit.

Please see our FAQ section below for more details.

Recent Action that we have taken at Hortipak

2018: We completed a full overhaul our core equipment. Our factory uses modern, energy-efficient machines, which are also powered-down when not in use.

We presented to the HTA Plastics Working Group to offer guidance on plastic use and misuse. The Taupe (PP) pot was selected and developed using a similar approach and principles to our own.

2019: Following ongoing work with suppliers we introduced a minimum of 20% recycled content into all our product lines by default, which was ahead of the UK Plastic Pact targets.

2020: We used our technical knowledge and supply chain contacts to contribute to rapid development of a high-end printed face-visor with remarkable optical qualities. We produced almost 1 million visors and headbands in North Yorkshire. This helped surgeons and other NHS field staff to better protect themselves throughout the COVID pandemic. This product was designed and manufactured in the UK, unlike most other visors which were imported from China.

2021: we installed 322 solar panels onto our factory room to offset our energy usage and to provide a separate income from renewable sources.

We introduced 30% recycled content into our sheet.

2022: we completed an overhaul of our IT and MIS systems, offloading systems to dedicated cloud-based facilities and reducing our power usage on site.

With solar panels in place, we removed all pre-existing oil and gas heating from our site (replaced with electric to maximise use of our own power).

We pledged to support the HTA’s Sustainability Roadmap because we also strive to do what is best for People, Planet and Profit, on balance.

2023: our vision is to implement practical carbon-measuring tools into our products and processes. We will continue to work with customers to optimise products and to reduce waste wherever possible.

Material Usage Guidelines 2022-23

Clear, unambiguous guidance based on UK governance and waste management processes.

We offer:

  • rPP. rPP is recyclable. The ‘r’ means that it also contains recycled content in line with the UK plastics pact.
    We recommend rPP for plant labels where durability is required, for example where plants are labelled in the nursery need to be labelled for many months
  • Eco3. The most durable, plastic-free alterative and could be considered for POS solutions, pot wraps and tags or for labelling when plants are labelled at despatch.

We are watching:

  • Water-resistant boards, for general progress
  • Availability of print-ready recyclates – this is a key constraint.
  • HDPE – widely used in the USA for plat tags, it is not currently commercially viable in Europe.
  • Future Bioplastics, plant-based, these are likely to be 10 years away from becoming commercially viable in our market.

Problem plastics which we have eliminated:

  • We do not offer PVC or PS (polystyrene) as these are problematic plastics which are hard to recycle in the UK
  • We do not offer biodegradable, or compostable plastics as these pollute the existing recycling infrastructure. E.g. PLA
  • We do not offer laminated plastics as these make the product more difficult to recycle than ‘mono-materials’
  • PET, which is more expensive than rPP. Printing prevents PET from being recycled into food/drink packaging, therefore it is not optimal for horticultural care cards.


Here we answer some common questions on recyclability, materials and sustainability issues.

Q: Are your products recyclable?

All Hortipak materials are recyclable in the UK.

Our specialist recycled polypropylene (rPP) is a mono-material (not a laminate), it contains 20% mineral additive (chalk, for colour and rigidity) and at least 30% recyclate material, which reduces our use of virgin material. The reason we state ‘at least 30%’ recyclate is because at present there is not enough supply of quality recyclate in Europe to consistently guarantee a higher content at all times. We have specific quality requirements for rigid printed sheets and cannot use lower grade recyclate. Our plastic needs to be clean and of a consistent make up so that our labels print properly and perform as expected, other wise we could risk creating more waste. Plant pots for example do not all require as high a grade recyclate.

We mark all Hortipak manufactured products with the correct recycling/material (RIC) code to aid recycling (where clients allow).

Our products are designed to be retained reused and recycled. We carefully choose materials to enable recycling within the UK infrastructure: we help to organise and identify plants in production and retail horticulture, we help to promote the sale of plants by improving gardener’s experience in selecting and caring for plants, as well as increasing brand recognition, plant attributes and other information and re-purchasing for our clients (Use images of bee-friendly, harmful if eaten etc)

Q: What plastics are recycled in the UK

Theoretically all plastics are recyclable, unfortunately however not all plastics are recycled in the UK.

All Hortipak labels are polypropylene (PP) and are recyclable in the UK. The PP Taupe pot was developed using exactly the same principles.

We do not offer PVC, PS, biodegradable plastics, bioplastics, or laminate plastics of any kind, all of which are hard to recycle in the UK. Multi-layer material, such as laminates, are harder to recycle and increase the risk of material heading to landfill.

Hortipak recommend avoiding laminates and other multi-layer materials. Single pieces of materials (mono-material) are easier to recycle.

We do not recommend PET, which is commonly used in the food and drinks industry, because it is comparatively expensive and, once printed, is not able to be recycled and reused for food and drinks grade packaging.

In the UK there are 3 tiers of Recycling. These are:

  • Widely recycled – More than 75% of Local Authorities collect for recycling.
  • Check Local Recycling – Between 20-75% of Local Authorities collect for recycling.
  • Not yet recycled – Fewer than 20% of UK Local Authorities collect that type of packaging.

We recommend that you check your local authority’s website for which types of plastics are available for household kerbside collection, or which can be taken to your local Household Waste Recycling Centre.

Recycle Now publish a guide to recycling which is available here: https://recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/packaging-symbols-explained

Q: What happens to Hortipak’s production waste?

All of our production waste is sent to UK recyclers where it is are cleaned and reprocessed into other plastic products. Our production waste is of high value to recyclers because it is of a relatively good quality with multiple potential life cycles left. The most common reuse for PP is in commercial and industrial markets, for example construction materials, non-food packaging such as plant pots, etc.

When we design products, we aim to achieve maximum yield from our sheets. This leads to best price and least production waste.

At the end of its life PP can be incinerated to create energy. Compared to other plastics, PP has a high calorific yield and gives off very low emissions during incineration.

Q: Which plastic is the most environmentally friendly?

All materials can cause damage to the environment if misused.

Any material that is recycled and used again is less damaging for the environment than using virgin plastic material or a mined material. This is why Hortipak recommends recycled and recyclable products.

For UK plant labels, the products need to last a long time in varied conditions throughout the supply chain and with gardeners. For this we have reviewed all the different kinds of polymers so that we use the optimum blend of cost, performance and recyclability.

Hortipak recommends the use of PEFC materials for Cardboard and Seed Packets as this means more trees are planted than are chopped down. The certified papers and boards contain fibre from managed forests and/or from post-consumer waste. PEFC can be considered in line with FSC certification.

Q: How many times can plastic be recycled?

In general, plastic can be recycled completely (100% recycled) 6 times before its properties are affected. However, if maintaining between 10% and 25% virgin content allows the plastic to be recycled indefinitely. This means that it is potentially possible to reduce plastic production by 75-90% if current plastics are recycled. These gains from using the recycling process are therefore a major incentive.

Q: What do the numbers and labels on plastic products mean?

The numbers 1-7 (often in triangles) are called Resin Identification Codes (RIC) and identify what type of polymer the plastic product is made from. These RIC codes are recognised  across the world and are compulsory in Europe. Hortipak offer recycled PP (RIC 5).

The On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) delivers a message on retailer and brand packaging which are designed to help UK consumers recycle more at home. OPRL labels are explained here: https:// www.oprl.org.uk/

Q: Should we be using recycled board instead of plastic?

Cardboard in horticulture is frequently exposed to moisture and needs to have additives applied to prevent the cardboard absorbing water and falling apart. These additives are often laminate plastics which make the cardboard non-recyclable as specialist facilities are required to separate the laminated elements.

Not all paper and cardboard is recyclable. Cardboard also presents its own environmental challenges because it uses a lot of water and electricity to recycle. Recycling plastic is estimated to be around a third of the environmental cost compared to recycling cardboard and it uses much less water.

Eco3 is available for anyone that wishes to trial or use a water-resistant, plastic-free board for labelling or POS solutions. Eco3 is recyclable in the UK.

Q: What does PIR, PCW and PCR mean?

PIR: Post Industrial Waste.

PCW: Post-Consumer Waste.

PCR: Post-Consumer Resource.

Turning waste and existing resources into renewable resources are critical to the creation of a circular economy.

Q: What is the difference between Biodegradable Plastic and Bioplastic?

Bioplastics are a form of PET that have had the fossil fuel element of the polymer replaced by a plant or protein-based alternative. Bioplastics show promise in the coming decades, however currently there are some fundamental problems which need to be overcome – they are not easily recycled (the properties are easily mistaken for PET by the consumer), they are intensively farmed and take resources from food production, and they are relatively expensive.

For example PLA is a common corn starch-based bioplastic often used in 3D printing, while Plantic is a plant-based alternative which can only be used for dry goods.  PLA can only be commercially recycled, most home composters can’t manage PLA, and recycling PLA at home can contaminate other salvageable plastics. As such, PLA is expected to be phased out by the end of the 2020’s.

Biodegradable plastics are made from traditional petrochemicals, which are engineered to break down more quickly. Bio-degradable plastics are plant-based alternatives that degrade naturally when subject together water and heat, or dissolve in water.

The UK does not have adequate infrastructure to deal with biodegradable plastics. Therefore there is a substantial risk that switching to these materials would further contaminate existing waste streams.

Industry-wide research published research from Kantar Worldpanel Survey in 2018 confirms that consumers are not willing to pay more for this type of plastic packaging. Instead they expect industry to design and manufacture using more environmentally responsible packaging materials.

Hortipak can readily switch to these materials when the infrastructure is in place.

Q: What about the Plastic Packaging Tax

Hortipak products contain a minimum of 30% recycled content and are not eligible for the Plastic Packaging Tax.

We do anticipate that the requirements for recycled content will increase. N.B. This is speculative and not formally announced. Recycled content availability is currently constrained by a lack of availability of high-quality post-consumer and post-industrial recyclate. The quality of the recyclate is important because poor quality can affect our production and create higher levels of waste.

Q: What is the future for plastic?

Eventually, plastics will not be made from fossil fuels, however this is a long-term expectation. Until more natural materials are developed which replace the many benefits we get from all of the different types of plastic polymers, then we will continue to use plastics in some form or other.

Short-to-medium term however, it is therefore important that we recycle and re-use existing resources and cause the least environmental impact along the way. Without plastic, there is a far greater risk of both prices and waste increasing, this is especially true in the food and drink industry.

When we design products, we aim to achieve maximum yield from our sheets. This leads to best price and least production waste. We recommend using a thinner gauge plastic where possible and can work with you to optimise shape and material usage.

Q: What about carbon footprint?

We are working to introduce a straightforward carbon measurement across the business for comparison.

We recommend that you buy locally to reduce transport footprint. We buy material in bulk to minimise the impact of distribution.


Useful references

WRAP https://wrap.org.uk/resources?type=All&field_initiatives_target_id=2278&sectors=All

The UK Plastics Pact https://wrap.org.uk/taking-action/plastic-packaging/initiatives/the-uk-plastics-pact

Retail Preferred Materials & Formats Guidelines e.g. Tesco – ask your account manager for an up to date copy

HTA’s Sustainability Roadmap

OPRL https:// www.oprl.org.uk/

Recycle Now publish a guide to recycling which is available here: https://recyclenow.com/recycling-knowledge/packaging-symbols-explained