Tag Archives: waste

Unease over governments plastic packaging plan

Critics have hit back at the government’s 25-year plan with concerns over its litter strategy and a lack of praise for packaging’s role in combating food waste.

Unease over governments plastic packaging plan

Prime Minister Theresa May set out the government’s vision on the environment and wanted to end the “scourge” of plastic packaging in waterways and oceans. She outlined plans for a tax or charge on single-use packaging and urged retailers to introduce plastic-free aisles.

However, in a statement, the British Plastic Federation (BPF) said that it was “very disturbed” at the tone of the Prime Minister’s language and it did not recognise the 170,000 jobs that the plastics industry brings to the UK.

The BPF added: “To stop plastics entering the sea from the West, the plastics industry would like to see a tougher stance on littering. It is highly doubtful that simply providing alternative materials will actually reduce littering in the UK, as this is an issue of personal behavior. It should be noted that the types of products that enter the marine environment from the UK tend to be those that have been irresponsibly littered — not packaging materials for fresh produce that are typically consumed at home and then disposed of responsibly.

“Plastics should not be in the sea and it is right that the UK, alongside other developed nations, should set an example of best practice. As has been pointed out, the vast quantity of plastics in the seas arrive there from the less developed economies of Asia, which have rudimentary waste management systems. Plastics get into the seas by a number of routes and each route needs to be dealt with separately.”

Martin Kersh, executive director of the Foodservice Packaging Association, was also disappointed that the national litter strategy wasn’t mentioned. He added that food waste should form part of the government’s strategy.

“Food waste was not referred to by the Prime Minister along with the role that packaging has played in extending shelf life,” said Kersh. “Whatever we do [in regards to plastic packaging] we must not risk increasing food waste.”

He added that May’s speech did not place enough emphasis on the recycling of all materials and said that the packaging industry would “100%” provide evidence for the proposed tax on single-use plastic packaging.

“What we would like to see is PRN reform on the terms of reference,” said Kersh. “We would be disappointed if this was not the case.”

Lorax Compliance chief operating officer Michelle Carvell said that “real opportunities” had been missed to create a joined-up policy to tackle “the UK’s mounting waste crisis”.

“As it stands, the government’s plan is little more than a kneejerk reaction which works as a placeholder prior to the looming policy changes ahead in our post-Brexit landscape,” said Carvell. “It says very little and promises to deliver even less, with no legal force included in the strategy.”

Gillian Garside-Wight, packaging technology director at Sun Branding Solutions, said that a “holistic approach is required to address a very complex issue”.

She added: “In our experience when our clients have switched to more responsible packaging solutions this has required investment from product development through to supply chain alterations which may or may not be cost neutral.  The ongoing debate remains – who will pick up this cost?

“Consumers are the catalyst driving change, now along with the government pledge (not just us), this will result in big changes to consumer behavior and the retail environment.  Brands and retailers need to move faster to respond to their customers’ demands.  This is a good start, however, there’s lots of other challenges to be resolved. For example, back of store packaging that consumers never see. We must not forget the primary function of packaging is to contain, protect, preserve and promote and we must continue to ensure it does not damage the environment we live in.”

The government’s strategy was welcomed by David Palmer-Jones, chief executive of Suez Recycling and Recovery. He said that the plan “rightly places our environment at the heart of government strategy”.

He added: “Having invested heavily in new facilities to support the move away from landfill over the last decade, we are pleased that this plan recognises the important role energy recovery facilities have played in this transition and the ambition to make these facilities more efficient by identifying ways to increase the use of the heat they produce.

“Overall, the plan represents an important first step towards policies that will support the growth of our industry and enable it to play a pivotal role in the development of a more resource efficient, sustainable economy.  Systemic change is needed to tackle the complex issues facing us and ensure coordination with national infrastructure plans and the Industrial Strategy.  We urge Government to work with our industry on the detail of its new Resources and Waste Strategy to develop a world-leading approach for the UK.”

The Campaign to Protect Rural England. Samantha Harding, litter programme director said: “It’s impressive the government has chosen to respond so emphatically to the plastic plague that is already putting our countryside, cities, and oceans at risk of irreversible harm.

“The charge on plastic bags has shown that we easily adapt to financial incentives, so the prospect of further charges or taxes that could eliminate products like plastic straws and stirrers is really positive news. And promoting innovation amongst producers will be critical to ensuring we eliminate unnecessary single-use items, as well as making sure that they are taking financial responsibility for the impact these products have.”

Aluminium Can gets most recycled drinks container

Aluminium beverage cans have been made the world’s most recycled drinks container at a recent Smithers Pira conference.

Aluminium Can gets most recycled drinks container

The Smithers Pira Sustainability in Packaging Europe Conference heard stats from Metal Packaging Europe indicating seven out of 10 drinks cans sold in the UK are recycled and 75% of all aluminium ever produced is still in use today.

Steel for packaging recorded an average European recycling rate of 78% in 2015, which included five countries exceeding 85%.

With the greater focus being placed on packaging, consumers are now more concerned about waste produced and want to be informed of the most up to date recycling statistics.

Martin Constable, chairman of the Can Makers, said: “The news that aluminium cans are now confirmed as the most recycled drinks packaging in the world is great news for environmentally concerned consumers. The can is the ideal packaging of choice for brands to meet their own sustainability targets as well as meet customer demand for ‘greener’ packaging.”

Whilst these numbers are encouraging, there remains much to do to reach the 2020 metal packaging industry ambition of an 80% European average rate.

Analysts have called for a legislative framework to create a functioning circular economy.

New chemicals guidance for waste packaging

New chemicals guidance for waste packaging, guidance to assist companies in meeting waste packaging obligations.

New chemicals guidance for waste packaging

This guidance document “The assessment and classification of waste packaging” was developed by trade associations representing companies operating in the chemicals supply chain that uses packaging.

The Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Environment Protection Agency have welcomed the development of this guidance and have agreed to its adoption in England, Wales and Scotland.

The document provides guidance for assessing whether packaging to be taken offsite is waste or not and if waste, whether it is waste packaging or not and whether it should be classified as hazardous or non-hazardous. It includes a method that allows for the weight of the packaging to be taken into account and is intended to be complementary to the joint environment agencies’ Technical Guidance WM3.  

The guidance will also support companies in the context of resource efficiency and the concept of the circular economy.

Green Alliance simple actions to tackle marine litter

Plastic marine litter from the UK could be reduced by nearly two thirds with five simple actions, says think tank Green Alliance.

Green Alliance simple actions to tackle marine litter

In a speech to WWF on 21 July, Environment Secretary Michael Gove promised to tackle marine plastic litter as part of a renewed waste and resources strategy. Green Alliance said Gove’s announcement that microbeads will be banned from rinse-off products later this year is a step forward, but it will tackle less than 1% of the problem. The government’s plastic bag charge also addresses 1% of the plastic that enters the sea.

The think tank said other well-publicised methods, which use buoys to remove litter from the open oceans, only tackle floating debris and so could only remove 2% of the plastic that gets into the sea. This is because most plastic sinks below the ocean surface or is ingested by animals.

According to Green Alliance analysis, the single most effective action would be to stop plastic bottles getting into the sea through a deposit return scheme (DRS). The largest proportion (33%) of plastic litter comes from plastic bottles, and this problem is likely to escalate as global bottle production is forecast to jump by 20 per cent by 2021.

Alongside a deposit return scheme, Green Alliance believes four other actions would reduce the UK’s contribution to plastic pollution in the sea by nearly two thirds in total:

  • enforce Operation Clean Sweep to cut pollution from plastic pellets or ‘nurdles’ used as raw material in industrial processes (9% of plastic pollution); [5]
  • enforce existing maritime waste dumping bans, using techniques similar to those used by Norway to enforce its fish discards ban (11% of plastic pollution); [6]
  • upgrade wastewater treatment plants with sand filters to retain the micro plastic fibres shed from synthetic clothes when they are washed (9% of plastic pollution); [7] and
  • Expand the UK’s ban on microbeads to all products, not just rinse-off products (1% of plastic pollution).

Dustin Benton, acting policy director for Green Alliance said: “It’s depressing to visit a beach that is covered with plastic, and downright scary to learn that the seafood you are eating might be contaminated by plastic pollution. The popularity of the microbeads ban and plastic bag charge shows the public is up for tackling these problems. The government should listen, introduce a bottle deposit scheme, and enforce rules on sources of industrial waste. These simple steps would address two-thirds of the UK’s marine plastic problem.”

There has of course been much opposition to DRS, most recently from the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) and the Scottish Grocers’ Federation (SGF) who said their research indicated that a deposit return scheme would negatively impact local shops.

Westminster debate on unrecyclable packaging

Westminster debate on unrecyclable packaging. A potential ban on unrecyclable packaging has been debated in Westminster by a cross section of MPs.
Westminster debate on unrecyclable packaging

An online petition gained more than 75,000 signatures, triggering a debate by Conservative MP David Mackintosh.

 

Resources minister Therese Coffey delivered the Government’s response, refusing to back a ban on unrecyclable packaging and continuing its stance for a voluntary approach.

 

“It is ultimately for businesses to decide what packaging materials they use to supply products to customers, and for customers to make choices on the products they buy,” she said.

 

Coffey said current packaging regulations incentivised businesses to use less packaging and ensure it can be recycled.

She also repeated Defra’s commitment to meeting the 50% household recycling target by 2020 and said the department expected to introduce the circular economy package into law.

 

The Industry Council for research on Packaging and the Environment (Incpen) earlier voiced its concerns about the Westminster debate.

 

Some of the comments on its social media feed read:

 

“Banning non-recyclable packaging will increase, not reduce waste!”

 

“It might seem anti-intuitive but mixed-material, non-recyclable packaging generates LESS waste than recyclable packaging…”

 

“Why don’t those who call for packaging producers to pay more, ask the newsprint & magazine industry to pay more too?”

 

Conservative MP Mark Pawsey, chairman of the all-party group for the packaging manufacturing industry, said: “A great deal of what is contained in the e-petition is not practical.”

 

He gave the example of food packaging, pointing out it often uses multiple polymer plastic wrapping to protect the product from hazardous material.

 

Pawsey also disputed the benefit of compostable packaging, saying it could end up being a contaminant if incorrectly sent for recycling.

 

And he stressed the importance of retailers using use as little material as possible.

 

There is absolutely no point in over-packaging, and no point in creating too much or in making the plastic or board out of too thick a gauge – that would add cost unnecessarily.”

 

Martin Kersh, executive director of the Foodservice Packaging Association, welcomed the statement from Coffey and said the debate highlighted the need to ensure MP’s are fully aware of the core requirements of packaging, particularly that packaging is produced to ensure the public can have complete confidence in the safety of its contents, arrives in the household undamaged and reduces food waste.

 

“If they did have this understanding the proposer of the motion would not have made references to such thing as over packaging when Courtauld accepted packaging optimisation is the key requirement. The industry must get these key messages across to all MP’s so they are much better equipped to look at any future petitions and proposals in a more balanced and informed way. The decision by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee to prevent national bans on specific forms of single use packaging must surely bring into question whether this Petition should proceed.”

 

He added: “I’m pleased the debate took place and it demonstrates MP’s want to see more packaging recycled, so we also need to impress upon them need for investment to ensure our waste management system reflects the way consumers live their lives today.”