Tag Archives: EU

A coherent plan needed for on-the-go packaging

Plastic beverage bottles were under the spotlight as MPs continued to quiz industry figures as part of the inquiry into disposable drinks packaging.

A coherent plan needed for on-the-go packaging

The Environmental Audit Committee heard evidence from packaging and retail experts, who defended plastic packaging while also arguing that a coherent strategy for on-the-go packaging was needed.

Barry Turner, director of plastics and flexible packaging at the British Plastics Federation, argued that the sector was taking action to boost recycling rates as well as improving the amount of recycled plastic in bottles. But he argued that the UK’s contribution to plastic pollution was small compared to other countries.

Also giving evidence was Alice Ellison, head of the environment at the British Retail Consortium, who said: “We want to move to a circular economy but why just look at plastic bottles? There is a gap [in recycling] from on-the-go consumption. That needs to be addressed.”

Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association, said that the UK did not have adequate recycling facilities.

He said: “Our sector wants to reuse as much as possible. We want to work with the government to get some consistency. There is consumer confusion on what to recycle and where.”

Ellison added: “The PRN system is not perfect. You currently have a perverse incentive to export waste abroad. That could be removed very quickly. A reformed PRN could have ring-fenced budgets to tackle different things. If the business does this alone then not everyone will come with us. It needs vision and a strategy from government.

Another concern was how the waste policy would be shaped post-Brexit. Turner said that the EU circular economy package had been a major driver for change and that he would not want to see a divergence in riles.

“We rely on Europe for a lot of legislation which has been, by and large, beneficial,” he added.

Turner said that the plastic packaging industry was keen to see improvements in recycling and said that the sector was calling for a more consistent approach to design. He was challenged by the committee’s chair Mary Creagh MP, who asked why unrecyclable films were wrapped around plastic bottles.

“We advocate that they use the right material,” said Turner. “We cannot dictate to a brand what they should do. It’s a commercial decision for them.”

Businesses are not looking to reduce packaging costs

A recent nationwide YouGov survey conducted for Davpack Packaging has shown that 95% of small businesses are not looking to reduce packaging costs.

Businesses are not looking to reduce packaging costs

The survey, conducted in July, showed, however, that 36% of decision-makers in over 1,100 small and medium-sized businesses are actively looking to cut their business costs in the near future. With most of the responses citing leaving the E.U. as their key reason for cutting costs, the survey shows that packaging is an area that is least likely to be cut. Staffing, marketing, and professional services respectively, have shown to be areas that are more likely to be cut ahead of the country’s political future.

While this may mean a slow decline in the employment or service industries outside the packaging industry, most SME’s decision makers are positive about the future of the packaging industry and are keen to ensure that their packaging continues to communicate and display their company’s values and beliefs to their customers.

Barney Byfield, managing director of  Davpack Packaging, commented: “We are in constant conversation with our customers about their business needs, and Brexit is often mentioned as an uncertainty. However, the indications are that the packaging market continues to expand and that customers don’t foresee a need to cut costs on this business essential. In fact, we are currently experiencing strong demand across the board, not just within economy packaging supplies, but also added value areas such as custom printed boxes and e-commerce solutions”

“However, many businesses do feel a need to offset the uncertainty around the future impact of Brexit with some cost reductions today as an insurance policy. We will continue to monitor the situation, because if companies feel more affected as Brexit gets closer, this is likely to affect business confidence and, in turn, demand for packaging supplies.”

Of the 5% who do want to target reductions in packaging, 31% cited that Britain leaving the EU was the main reason for this consideration. While the country’s decision stands, the packaging industry will see a shift in spending, but it can be assured that amongst SME’s the packaging industry will continue to use packaging as a marketing tool as the country presses forward.

Plastics companies rely heavily on EU workers

Plastics companies rely heavily on EU workers, says BPF survey. The plastics industry is highly reliant on EU workers and Brexit has pushed firms to automate some roles, according to a survey by the British Plastics Federation.

Plastics companies rely heavily on EU workers

The UK plastics industry is the third largest manufacturing sector in terms of employment, employing 166,000 people, of which, roughly 18,000 are non-UK EU citizens and 4,000 come from the rest of the world. EU workers account for roughly 11% of the entire workforce in the industry and one in five of all factory floor workers.

The survey showed that more than half of UK plastics companies rely on employing temporary workers during busy periods — and here EU citizens play a very prominent role, making up 48% of temporary workers. A quarter of the companies surveyed stated that they would like any new immigration policy to help them meet short-term, temporary needs.

Before the referendum, roughly half of UK plastics companies were having trouble recruiting. January’s BPF Business Conditions Survey showed that this has increased, with just under two-thirds of plastics companies now reporting difficulty filling key roles. The more recent survey, specifically about EU workers, shows that 10% of companies feel they are having trouble filling vacancies as a direct result of the EU referendum whereas 58% do not feel the result has affected their overall workforce.

The survey shows that factory floor staff and engineers are the toughest roles to fill and in order to plug the potential gap left by EU workers, 61% of companies say they may employ UK workers, 39% may train existing staff, while almost a third (29%) are also looking into the possibility of automating the roles.

Commenting on the findings, chairman of the BPF Brexit Taskforce, Mike Boswell, said: “Our industry has for some time experienced difficulty in finding the right staff for key roles and unfortunately Brexit appears to have made this situation worse. This survey has underlined the importance of EU workers in our industry.

“If companies that rely on temporary workers to fulfil their orders lose access to almost half of the temporary workforce, this will pose an enormous challenge. It is important that at this point companies are exploring all feasible alternatives, including investment in upskilling the existing workforce as well as the development and implementation of technology to automate roles, for which we will require further assistance from the UK government.”

The role of EU workers in the plastics industry survey was carried out in 2017 and was completed by almost 90 companies. To access the full survey, as well as a summary of the findings, visit: http://www.bpf.co.uk/eu/home.aspx

Brexit crunch time for the UK

Brexit crunch time for the UK and its relationship with the European Union.

Brexit crunch time for the UK

This month, Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 – the formal process by which the UK will quit the EU. There’s been much debate over what a post-EU world look like but there seems to be no more clarity about what life will be like once the UK has left the EU than when the British public voted by a slender majority to walk away last year.

The issues are myriad: Immigration, tariffs, market access and currency fluctuations to name just three. And then there’s the risk that some manufacturers might just exit the UK and head for the continent.  So the key question remains for the country’s packaging sector: will it be better or worse off under Brexit, hard or otherwise?

Negotiations between the UK and Brussels are likely to last two years. However, the desire to limit immigration into the UK means access to the single market is being ruled out, while doubts hover over the customs union. Many manufacturers are dismayed at this, not least around the movement of people. The ease with which EU citizens would be able to come and work in the UK – and the residency status of those already here – could prove to be vital to many firms operating in the packaging sector.

Labour flexibility

So while tariffs and input costs are a concern, “by far the biggest issue is the flexibility of labour”, says Rodney Steel, chief executive of the British Contract Manufacturers and Packers Association (BCMPA), which is particularly important given the seasonal nature of a lot of packaging operations, notably agriculture and the run-up to Christmas.

A significant number of the BCMPA’s member companies rely on workers coming from Eastern Europe, Steel adds. He believes their ability to come here – indeed their desire, in the light of changing social attitudes towards those from that part of the world – hangs in the balance.

The possible decline in numbers of EU workers involved in seasonal activity might be balanced by an increase in the number of UK employees, although the consensus is that firms that have had problems finding ‘local’ people willing enough to do the work will continue to have such problems.

Additionally, while the importance of the UK packaging industry’s contribution to the domestic economy – valued between £11bn and £12bn annually – is not to be underestimated, the sector very much depends on the fortunes of its customers, many of whom may be taking a view on their trading activity within the UK and further afield.

As Dick Searle, chief executive of the Packaging Federation, points out, around half of the food consumed in the UK is imported. “Market access is vital and has significant implications for the food and drink industries, particularly with regards to cross-border activity.” And with doubts over the customs union, he wonders: “Can you imagine what will happen at ports like Dover, with every transport being checked?”

Martin Kersh, chief executive of the Foodservice Packaging Association, agrees: “Food packaging is time critical. It can’t afford to be held at customs posts.”

The issue of regulation is another potential minefield. The industry will seek to maintain high standards – in areas such as food contact, for example – and few will be willing to compromise, despite some MPs suggesting that Brexit will ease the burden of red tape. “[Conservative MP] Jacob Rees-Mogg’s recent line that ‘if it’s good enough for India, it’s good enough for us’ on standards was appalling,” says Kersh. “We must not compromise. If the government lowers its guard we will be inundated with packaging that is sub-standard.”

Philip Law, chief executive of the British Plastics Federation, says the industry had “fought long and hard” to achieve regulation that was both valuable and acceptable. “So we must have ‘regulatory equivalence,” he adds. “We might not necessarily like the [Brussels’] regime, but we can work within it.”

Searle agrees. “So much of what we do is tied up with the EU, and disentangling ourselves from that is going to be a challenge. The only thing that appears certain is that there is going to be a lot of uncertainty ahead.”

With that in mind, the sector needs clarity from the government, says Kersh, although this has not been especially forthcoming. Perhaps this is understandable.

“Being a service industry we’re not ‘seen’,” he says. “Compared with sectors like automotive and the chemical industries we’re not very high on ministers’ agenda, despite the financial and employment contributions the sector makes.”

As part of a sophisticated supply chain, the packaging industry ought to be well placed to sway ministers, argue some.  But Searle asks: “Are people listening? They hear what we say, but the important bit is getting them to act.”

So what should the industry do? “We have to be clear about what we want and talk to customers we sell to and try and ensure freedom of trade and no tariffs,” Kersh says.

Investment decisions

Meanwhile, is it likely that firms with UK operations but EU-based headquarters might up sticks and leave? Some believe there is a danger that with the UK no longer a hop-off point for the lucrative markets in the EU, such firms might divert investment elsewhere or indeed transfer operations out of the UK. But while anecdotal evidence suggests that some investment decisions are being mulled over, plans to relocate seem a way off.

While the pervading feeling is one of uncertainty is there any Brexit upside for the UK packaging sector? Searle, who warns of the likely impact of rising input costs, thanks largely to sterling’s depreciation against pricing currencies such as the US dollar and the euro, says: “The industry is hugely innovative and extremely resilient. We could potentially become more sufficient in food production. But we need access to markets, we need to be more competitive and we need more skills.”

Rodney Steel highlights that in times of uncertainty brand owners often outsource, which can have mixed outcomes but could prove to be a ‘plus’ for the sector, while the BPF’s Law says: “There might be more consumption of UK-produced, UK-packaged goods. But that’s speculation.

“What we do know is the packaging sector will make the best fist of the cards it has been dealt. It has survived past crises and I’m pretty confident it will cope.”



EU workers, UK industry, regulation and standards

The packaging industry sees in Brexit more challenges than glaring opportunities. Primarily, fears revolve around the ability of EU citizens to work in the UK, while there is also the threat of tariffs, the possibility of the UK’s isolation from key European markets, and a lowering of quality standards.

The FPA’s Martin Kersh says: “In setting [employee] quotas and work permit criteria will the government insist on a very high education level? If so, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution will be even more short of labour, while some companies will find it difficult to trade, what with staff returning home and quotas preventing their replacement.”

Retaining this EU workforce will be crucial, says the Packaging Federation’s, Dick Searle. “Without them, much of the UK’s industry would grind to a halt. So many structural issues across our economy have been hidden by the good work these people do.”

Philip Law of the BPF agrees, and also highlights the issue of regulation. “It is vital that we continue to influence legislation and standards in the EU, as it will continue to be a very significant market for UK packed goods.” There is concern that instead of appreciating such standards, the UK government will view them as needless bureaucracy. Kersh says: “While I believe UK packaging manufacturers will keep to the current standards, and continue to change as they do within the EU, I feel the floodgates to substandard, currently ‘illegal’ packaging will be opened, risking the safety of the UK population.”



June 2016
After one of the most acrimonious political campaigns in recent times, the UK votes by 52% to 48% to leave the EU. David Cameron, who called for the referendum, resigns as Prime Minister.

July 2016
Former Home Secretary Theresa May becomes Prime Minister and promptly appoints prominent ‘Leave’ campaigner Boris Johnson as the UK’s new Foreign Secretary.

August 2016
In what is a traditionally quiet period on the politics front, MPs are told that “Brexit means Brexit”, although no-one quite knows what this means.

September 2016
Low unemployment figures and strong consumer spending prompt pro-Brexit commentators to claim the UK can thrive outside the EU.

October 2016
Prime Minister Theresa May announces details of the government’s Great Repeal Bill – which among other things will convert existing EU law into UK law – to delegates at the Conservative Party’s annual conference.

December 2016
The Supreme Court backs an earlier judgment by the High Court in November and rules that Parliament is entitled to vote on the government’s bill for Brexit before Article 50 can get underway. The government had appealed to the Supreme Court to quash the High Court’s ruling and prevent such a vote.

January 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May finally outlines her aspirations for Brexit. She rules out the UK remaining in the single market, prompting concern among many in the business community.

February 2017
Put to a vote by MPs, the government’s bill paving the way for the triggering of Article 50 gets overwhelming support. Some 494 MPs voted in favour of the bill, which went through unamended, with 122 against.

March 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May set to officially starting the process for the UK to leave the EU.

Glass Packaging Industry Legislation

Glass Packaging Industry the European Container Glass Federation (FEVE) has supported the European Commission’s Circular Economy Packaging.

Glass Packaging Industry

Glass Packaging Industry. A new FEVE paper said it supports a legislative framework for mandatory separate collection schemes, targets focused on recycling, and acknowledgement of the superior value of permanent materials.

Today, 73% of all post-consumer glass packaging is collected for recycling on average in the EU, and about 90% of it is actually recycled into new bottles and jars.

But FEVE said the challenge is to collect the remaining 27% while ensuring the quality of recycled glass.

Vitaliano Torno, president of FEVE, said: “For the circular economy to function and for all member states to meet their targets, it is fundamental that separate collection schemes become mandatory across the EU to increase the quantity as well as the quality and safety of recycled materials”.

He added that the new recycling targets of 75% (by 2025) and 85% (by 2030) provide a good framework to support investments in separate collection schemes and recycling infrastructure. But the targets must unambiguously focus on recycling, without any competing EU-wide targets on preparing packaging for re-use. Reusable packaging is a product that only satisfies demand from very specific markets, typically local or those functioning in closed circuits, and such targets would create barriers to the free movement of goods in the internal market.

“Materials that can maintain their properties during their repeated use and that can be recycled over and over again must be put at the heart of the EU circular economy”, said Torno. “Glass is a permanent material that is 100% and endlessly recyclable without any degradation of its intrinsic properties no matter how many times it is recycled. This allows for important raw material and energy savings with major benefits for the environment and the economy.”