Recycling and waste management company Viridor has announced plans to open a new £65million recycling plant at Avonmouth, as a strategic step towards meeting the targets set by the UK Plastics Pact, an industry-wide initiative to make plastic sustainable. The development will see Viridor process 81,000 tonnes of PET plastic in the first year, rising to 89,000 tonnes by the third year.
Meanwhile, waste management company Biffa plans to open a new state-of-the-art recycling facility in Seaham, County Durham, capable of recycling 57,000 tonnes of plastic per year. According to the Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP), the UK generates around 2.4 million tonnes of packaging waste, with 1.7 million tonnes coming from households. In the UK we currently recycle around 50 per cent of plastic bottles and just 12 to 15 per cent of mixed plastics, incIuding pots, tubs and trays, as well as films.
According to WRAP’s Plastics Market Situation report, 384,000 tonnes of plastic packaging was recycled in the UK last year. You can read the full WRAP report here.
British MPs have called for a tax on all single-use plastic packaging. The proposed tax will hit packaging that includes less than 30 per cent recycled content, with some lower percentages incurring lower fees.
The committee found that replacing single-use plastic with compostable alternatives is not the right answer to the problem until the necessary infrastructure is in place and consumers become conversant with how to dispose of such waste.
The government simultaneously revealed plans to tackle the plastic crisis by introducing deposit return schemes (DRS) and improving consistency in local council recycling collections. Packaging News has reported that the British Plastics Federation (BPF) will oppose the proposed plastic packaging tax, pointing out a loophole that effectively allows all imported pre-filled packaging to escape the tax altogether. Although Marcus Gover, Chief Executive of WRAP, held a positive outlook, he warned that the industry must not rush to a “piecemeal” reaction to plastic packaging, particularly not for food, as food waste itself is a big part of the problem.
Upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose has rolled out three more “unpacked” stores in Cheltenham, Abingdon and Wallingford after the success of its trial in summer 2019. The stores let customers fill reusable containers with unpackaged produce – products offered range from cereals and coffee to rice and even frozen fruit, and include 200 of Waitrose’s own brands, as well as refills of wine and beer and cleaning products.
Prices are roughly 15 per cent cheaper in the refillable section compared to packaged items, to encourage customers to make the most of the eco-friendly initiative. At the beginning of January 2020 Waitrose reported that sales of loose vegetables increased by 75 per cent. The retailer has also confirmed that sales of refillables at its four Waitrose Unpacked shops are outselling packaged equivalents by 68 per cent. ASDA has also started trialling the refill store concept in its “sustainability store” at a Leeds branch.
by Zita Goldman, Business Reporter
Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging initiative, which it launched in response to customer complaints about goods damaged in transport and hard-to-open packaging, has its ten-year anniversary this year.
Packages that comply with the initiative’s standards are made from 100 per cent recyclable materials and are easy to open. Amazon claims the programme has so far eliminated 215,000 tonnes of packaging. From 1 October 2019, however, the e-commerce giant put in place measures that mandate items larger than 8 x 14 x 8 inches and heavier than 20lb to be officially certified as ready to ship through its Frustration-Free Packaging certification programme.
The programme’s two tiers measure whether there is a minimal damage and defect rate and check whether the packages require an Amazon over-box or further preparation from the Amazon team. To see whether packages are eligible for certification, they can be submitted to the Amazon ISTA6 SIOC test, which includes free-fall drop and vibration testing that mirror the potential conditions packages can be subjected to during transit and other supply chain distribution stages.
The intertwined trifecta of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) considerations that businesses need to take into account can also be a driver for value, according to an article in McKinsey Quarterley.
The individual elements of ESG are closely related, and claims about environmentally friendly solutions and practices need to be verifiable in order to drive consumer trust. Paying attention to environmental, social or governance concerns, however, doesn’t mean that the business needs to compromise on value creation: ESG-related investing has been experiencing a meteoric rise and a strong ESG proposition clearly correlates with higher equity returns. According to the report, a strong ESG programme links to value creation in five essential ways: via top-line growth, cost reduction, lower probability of legal and regulatory interventions, productivity uplift and future-proof investments. Being able to cite metrics that prove how meeting SDG criteria can have a positive effect on performance will boost the leverage of senior executives and line managers advocating a shift to a more acute sense of corporate social responsibility.
Intelligence agency Mintel gives an insightful account of the recent shift in consumer attitudes to packaging in this 20-minute talk followed by a Q&A. Sustainable Packaging’s Evolution: From Niche Interest to Major Green Concern also includes a handy selections of tips on how to leverage changing public attitudes towards packaging.
Presenter Benjamin Punchard, Global Packaging Insight Director of Mintel, explains why the best strategy for producers is to look to reduce the plastic content of their packaging rather than removing plastic altogether. Increasing consumer awareness of the negative environmental impact of packaging means that information about recyclability, sources of plastic content and the manufacturer’s potential stewardship of the recycling loop need to be communicated clearly and conspicuously.
Although young consumers have a general propensity for gimmicky solutions, which applies to packaging as well, says Punchard, he encourages businesses to provide meaningful solutions at low cost by eliminating any disconnect between the environmental message and the physical appearance of the product.
The debate over whether compostable packaging is the right candidate for solving the plastic problem continues. In the UK, a committee of MPs criticised compostable packaging last October, pointing out that “although industrially compostable plastic packaging is appealing as an alternative to conventional plastics, the general waste management infrastructure to manage it is not yet fit for purpose.”
Another argument is that compostable packaging can become a tool for greenwashing, as it suggests to the user that the packaging naturally breaks down in any organic environment, when such packaging often needs commercial composting. For compostable packaging to work it’s also essential that available composting facilities are the right match to the specific material used.
A key advantage of compostable packaging, however, is that it allows for the processing of packaging contaminated with food residue, which is otherwise unsuitable for recycling. Such waste currently goes to incineration or landfill.
Source: Zita Goldman, Business Reporter
Commercial packaging has been in use for centuries, seen as not just an essential way to ensure that food products are fit for consumption, but also by marketers as a means to make products truly iconic. Coca-Cola isn’t perceived by millions as being a brown, sugary liquid – it’s a cold glass bottle with beads of moisture running down the side, instantly driving cravings. The same is true for Toblerone, Heinz ketchup, Doritos… the list of memorable brand packaging goes on.
But the added value of even a great design is no longer enough. In late 2017, the BBC aired its long-awaited sequel to the original Blue Planet documentary, and in doing so laid bare the vast scale of the impact discarded packaging is having on the world. Alongside growing public awareness, this galvanised the marketing sector to see eco-packaging as an opportunity and to look beyond packaging to supply chains and the sourcing of materials. Almost 20 months later, a long, diverse list of organisations have modernised their packaging by reducing the use of plastic and other potentially damaging materials. This list includes Aldi, Burberry, Costa, Dell, Evian, Carlsberg, Coca-Cola, Iceland, Morrisons, Nestlé, IKEA, Lidl, McDonald’s, Tottenham Hotspur, Volvo and Walmart just for starters. Asda alone reported that it had saved 6,500 tonnes of plastic last year by changing or removing packaging from some of its own-brand products.
Packaging is, for many retailers, the new battleground of the high street. Concern among shoppers regarding the use of plastics has left many retailers to race towards plastic-free aisles, requiring whole supply chains to rethink their offerings. It’s no longer good enough for brands to focus on what a product will look like among its competitors on a crowded supermarket shelf. Marketers need to ask questions such as: how robust is the packaging? How easy is it to store in the refrigerator/cupboard and will the brand still be visible? Is it easy to open and use? How easy is it to recycle? Brands that ignore any element of this can put themselves at a major disadvantage with savvy high-street consumers.
Choice is changing too. Challenger brands who can move quicker than their more established rivals are leapfrogging onto supermarket shelves using environmental packaging credentials. Innovation and creativity are driving success at a number of levels, from the ability to standout on shelves, to new storage and opening techniques – every interaction a consumer has with packaging, is now an opportunity for a brand to build a relationship.
That requirement to understand the needs of consumers and have consumers relate to brands has fuelled innovative marketing campaigns. Brands have increasingly highlighted aspects such as innovative packaging, ethical supply chains, recyclable materials, and the rise of eco-impassioned spokespeople. Last year, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), the Consumer Goods Forum, and global change agency Futerra conducted research to address consumer demand for more transparency in packaging and products sold around the world.
The result, The Honest Product Guide, revealed that global consumers are hungry for more transparency in the production of products. 70 per cent of respondents stated that they were more interested in the make-up of the products they buy than the actual companies that made them. Such was the interest that a growing number of consumers now expect packaging to state information such as which materials are used – looking at their impact on society and the environment – as well as product labels supplying details of the supply chain.
In the eyes of marketers, packaging has a pivotal role in addressing a range of consumer requirements. It provides a key communications role portraying brand values through design and imagery. Now marketing teams at food companies are going further by responding to consumer expectations around wider factors such as food waste, by using packaging to extend shelf lives significantly.
As packaging becomes more important as a communication channel, marketing departments will face new challenges. For example, the desire to meet consumer demand to show off green credentials or support of a cause must be balanced with a brand’s identity, or the very thing that attracted the consumer to the brand in the first place could be lost.
How key messages are displayed is also critical. The Daily Telegraph reported that shoppers must now interpret 58 symbols for recycling alone, leading to widespread confusion about what can and cannot be put into kerbside collections.
While it might take a bit more time to refine aspects like recycling information, when brands do get it right the benefits are huge. One good example is Lush, which sells natural, handmade beauty products. The company aims to source the best, safest and most beautiful ingredients, never to test on animals, and champions reduced packaging. Lauded in the press for its approach, in 2018, Lush posted record pre-tax profits of £73.5 million, up from £43.2 million in the previous year.
There’s no doubt that when it comes to packaging the marketing industry is at a crossroads. Marketers face an exciting opportunity, and if teams can leverage engineers and R&D to develop great designs and drive awareness while meeting changing consumer needs, success should follow. Those that can combine these factors as successfully as Lush should not only profit but drive an even closer relationship with their consumers.
by James Delves, Head of External Engagement, Marketing, CIM
Ditching the plastic straw isn’t going to save the planet. But has the change of consumer mindset finally set us on the right path?
Undoubtedly the war on plastic is one of the hottest topics today, and for a good reason. Sir David Attenborough has almost single-handedly brought awareness to the careless use of disposable plastics. This has led to a change in attitudes among consumers, spawning a movement of seeing plastic as the “enemy”, but is this a result of greenwashing propaganda?
Humans produced an estimated 320 million tonnes of plastic in 2017, according to Surfers Against Sewage, and the WWF says eight million tonnes of it is dumped into oceans every year. But is this just a fashionable issue, and are we making changes for the right reasons? We need more education on the alternatives, and to understand what their environmental impact is in comparison. So instead, is this our chance to stop plastic becoming waste in the first place? The packaging supply chain does recognise the problem and is working very hard to solve it, but how can they work together to focus on delivering solutions for the right reasons.
While single-use plastics such as straws are clearly an issue, almost 50 per cent of all plastic found in the oceans comes from discarded fishing nets. That’s not to say that switching to a paper straw isn’t helpful, but it’s essential to understand what the biggest driver of the plastic problem is.
Deposit return schemes and improving the consistency of recycling for households and businesses do show that change is coming. Waitrose recently extended its bring-your-own-container trial. The feedback from shoppers was overwhelmingly positive and sales had overtaken those of equivalent packaged products. Giving people the choice has given them back the power to make their own conscious decisions, ones not necessarily based on price.
Sian Sutherland, co-founder of campaign group A Plastic Planet, said: “It is no longer acceptable to blame the public for plastic pollution. Brands and retailers simply need to offer their customers a better choice, a new way of shopping that is guilt-free.”
Combating packaging waste through a circular economy of reusing and recycling plastic must be a top priority for government and industry insiders. We’ve seen plastic use is top of the agenda at the moment and is currently a bigger consideration that carbon footprint, but is this a mistake, fueled by public demand?
It’s very encouraging that new laws are being passed to fight plastic litter. Unfortunately, while these laws may reduce the most visible form of plastic pollution, it could be at the expense of other environmental impacts. That’s because, somewhat ironically, disposable plastic bags require fewer resources (land, water, CO2 emissions, etc.) to produce than paper, cotton or reusable plastic bags—by a wide margin.
Brendan Cowey, Director of Staeger Clear Packaging, said: “Plastic is vastly more carbon efficient to produce than any alternatives. It is of paramount importance that we reduce waste of ALL packaging types and of the packaged products themselves. Plastic packaging made from recycled plastic waste is a brilliant sustainable resource which is net positive for the environment, which is why at Staeger we only make packaging from waste that already exists.”
At the last edition of our Packaging Innovations show in Birmingham 20% of visitors said they were looking for sustainable design but 32% said they were looking for bio-degradable plastics. Plastic can still be the material of choice, it’s about where it’s come from and what happens to it after use.
It’s an intricate and challenging problem that will require the whole supply chain, both for packaging and the products inside, to work together and focus on delivering solutions for the right reasons. As it’s become much more apparent that we are fighting a war on waste, not on plastic…
by Alessandra Leonard, Marketing Project Manager, Packaging Innovations, Easyfairs
To watch the video “Valgroup – A new dawn for sustainable packaging” click here.
Plastics are good. Waste is bad.
The best way forward is to support the development of an efficient circular economy, in which our natural resources never become waste. In this context, we must find new ways to eliminate waste and maximise the use of natural capital and, at the same time, create sustainable development.
Since Valgroup’s inception in the 1970s, sustainability has always been part of the company’s DNA, and is fully integrated into its strategy to support the development of a robust circular economy for plastics.Valgroup is set to shape the future of sustainable packaging.
Valgroups’ vision of circular economy
The ongoing packaging revolution has been driven by the following megatrends:
• A global affluent middle class
• Shifting demographics and social change
• Rapid urbanisation
• Climate change and resource scarcity
Sustainability is an unstoppable force which will transform businesses across the globe. In particular, the rational use of natural resources is imperative. Valgroup aims to build a truly circular economy, in which plastics never become waste. To that end, it has developed a number of groundbreaking sustainable technologies, processes and solutions as follows:
Annually,Valgroup recycles over 135,000 tonnes of plastics, preventing this material from ending up in landfills and, subsequently, the wider environment. Valgroup aims to eliminate plastic waste and pollution at source. This can be achieved by setting up large-scale recycling plants and investing in disruptive technologies such as:
Mechanical Recycling (Re-V Cycle products): Valgroup has led the way in the plastics recycling sector. Altogether, its PET Recycling plants in Brazil, Mexico and Spain recycle over 300 million plastic bottles per month.
Pyrolysis Plants (Re-V Cycle products): This disruptive technology uses pyrolysis to turn all types of plastics into oil, which in turn can be used to produce virgin-like plastics, in a truly circular fashion.
A Fully Automated Mixed-Waste Processing Facility (dirty MRF): In order to increase access to plastic waste on a large-scale basis, Valgroup has invested in a groundbreaking mixed-waste processing facility, which employs state-of-the-art equipment to sort all types of materials at landfill sites.
Packaging Design Optimisation (Super-R): Valgroup’s Super-Recyclable (Super-R) packaging is fully recyclable and includes laminated packaging, flow packs, stand-up pouches, bar soaps, squeeze tubes and so on. Nanotechnology also provides enhanced barrier properties to extend storage life, reducing food and product waste significantly.
Load Test Centre: Valgroup has two world-class research centres located in Lorena in Brazil and Findlay, Ohio in the US, which are able to optimise the use of plastics.
VALTRAC: The VALTRACTM system is a total solution, including hardware and software, that monitors plastics use in real time.
Renewable Resources (V-Green products): Valgroup is certified by leading organisations to manufacture packaging using bioplastics.
Enhanced Biodegradation (Bio-V products): Valgroup’s product portfolio also includes solutions with enhanced biodegradability.
Renewable Energy: A significant percentage of Valgroup’s energy comes from renewable sources.
Plastics play a vital role in our society. From aircrafts and vehicles to medical and electronic devices and packaging, plastics have improved safety, sanitation and living standards thanks to their optimal mechanical properties – they are resistant, low in weight, malleable and cost-effective. Moreover, they are significantly less energy and water intensive than the alternatives, and also have a very low carbon footprint, making plastics one of the most useful and sustainable materials ever invented. Plastics are indispensable if we want to build a better future for this and future generations.
Biodegradable plastics are plastics that can be decomposed by the action of living organisms, usually microbes, into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass. Biodegradable plastic produces fewer greenhouse gases than petroleum-based plastic. However, there is no exact timescale for this degradation.
Bioplastic is a plastic substance based, wholly or in part, on organic biomass rather than petroleum. Starch and cellulose are two of the most common renewable feedstocks used to create bioplastics. However, not everything bio-based plastic is biodegradable.
Producing compostable packaging requires less carbon compared to plastic. This kind of packaging, supported by an efficient collection and composting system, reduces the amount of waste being sent to landfills by turning it into compost which providing the soil with life-promoting nutrients.
Corrugated cardboard boxes are one of the most popular packaging materials in use today, whose origin goes back to 19th century England. They excel among packaging materials thanks to their strength, resilience and recyclability.
Once-common DRSes, or deposit return schemes, where consumers pay a small deposit for every bottle or drinks container they buy, are coming back into vogue. When you return the drinks container to a collection point at a retailer or supermarket, for example, you will get your money back or a voucher you can redeem on your next shop. Implementation in Scotland is well under way, and England is following suit.
EPR or Extended Producer Responsibility is a policy approach under which producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products.
Environmental, Social, and Governance or ESG refers to the three central factors in measuring the sustainability and societal impact of an investment in a company or business. These criteria help to better determine the future financial performance of companies.
Flexible plastic products typically include packaging film, plastic bags, shrinkwrap, builder’s film and agricultural films such as bale wrap.
Fossil-based or traditional plastic is made from a wide range of polymers derived from petrochemicals.
FSC or the Forest Stewardship Council is an international non-profit, multi-stakeholder organisation established in 1993 which claims to promote responsible management of the world’s forests. The FSC certification is considered the “gold standard” designation for wood harvested from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally sound and economically viable.
WRAP published a framework in 2018 showing what UK Plastics Pact members and supporters can do to deliver The UK Plastics Pact targets by 2025. It aims to inspire members and supporters to act, as well as to galvanise wider action by governments, funders, investors, NGOs and businesses who are not members of The UK Plastics Pact. It is a living document that will evolve in future versions.
The UK’s Plastic Pact is a document set up by WRAP, an organisation working with the UK government, businesses and communities, to achieve greater recycling efficiency. Founding members include waste management companies Viridor and Veolia. The pact’s four main targets are:
Packaging Waste Recovery Notes, or PRNs, are issued by accredited waste processors and can be purchased by producers through compliance schemes in the UK, of which there are around 50. The price of PRNs is driven by the trading market, and only companies with a £2 million turnover generating more than 50 tonnes of packaging annually are mandated to comply.
Due to shrinking volumes of waste exports to China and increasingly stringent domestic regulation, PRN prices for plastic have skyrocketed, which could lead to a crunch when there won’t be enough PRNs for compliance schemes and producers to meet their obligations.
PLA, or polylactic acid, is a plastic-like compostable material derived from plant-based sources.
Rigid plastic packaging is defined by its uses in products such as water bottles, which are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most widely used resin, and to a lesser extent in jars, clamshells, tubs and trays.
The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) is a British registered charity. It works with businesses, individuals and communities to promote a circular economy by helping them reduce waste, develop sustainable products and use resources in an efficient way. WRAP provides businesses with information, tools and practical advice on how to make their operation more sustainable, as well as a safe, non-competitive space where businesses can share best practice and collaborate to deliver change.
Zero-waste shops have removed all forms of unnecessary waste from their business models by selling their products in bulk devoid of any packaging. Certain grocery goods such as pasta, coffee and cereals lend themselves more readily to this format, but cosmetics are also often sold in shops as refills for reusable bottles brought to the shop by the customer. The number of new zero-waste shops has recently been on the rise.
Source: Zita Goldman, Business Reporter
There can be few hotter topics in the world of business right now than that of sustainability, and the need for organisations to demonstrably reduce the damage they do to the environment.
“Limiting the impact of their footprint on the environment has been on companies’ radar for the past 10 years, but for a lot of our customers it’s recently gone from the fourth or fifth bullet to near the top of the list,” says Bob Petersen, vice president of marketing and product management at sustainable packaging firm ORBIS. “It’s now something that’s being considered by companies from the beginning of every process, whether that’s the design of products or changes they’re considering to their supply chain.”
A major focus is around the amount of secondary, or reusable transport packaging used in manufacturing and retail supply chains. When optimally designed, reusable packaging moves product in the supply chain faster, safer, more cost-effectively and with less impact on the environment. The key, says Mr Petersen, is to take a holistic approach towards the entire supply chain, working with partners and suppliers to help reduce single-use packaging and lower emissions.
Image provided by ORBIS
“There can be token gestures such as moving to a reusable pallet in a specific loop, but unless you understand how everything works together you might be saving in one area but creating more logistics and freight emissions in others,” he warns. “You have to be prepared to take a very broad look at the supply chain in all the different areas that are impacted, and that means working with manufacturing, logistics, marketing and commercial teams. You need good buy-in from your entire organisation to really do it well.”
Working with partner organisations and software can help businesses analyse their operations and supply chains and make recommendations that will deliver genuinely impactful packaging options. These are likely to include reusable plastic totes, pallets, dunnage and bulk systems that can be used over and over again. At the end of their life, he adds, these can be recovered, recycled and reprocessed into new packaging products, without ever entering the solid waste stream.
For example, ORBIS has conducted a study with the Virginia Tech Center for Packaging and Unit Load Design, which demonstrates that reusable plastic pallets can have approximately 18 times the life span of wood pallets. These pallets can complete more than 200 cycles, whereas wood pallets are used on an average of 11 occasions before being taken out of service. “Reusable plastic is going to be working in your system for years and it doesn’t degrade or have the inconsistencies that a lot of one-way packaging does,” says Mr Petersen. “When you use something many, many times you can design the pallet or container to be a bit more robust and better able to stand up to impact.”
Image provided by ORBIS
Even the material made into such packaging can be sourced from recycled content, he adds. “We often recover our customers’ obsolete packaging, then recycle and use it to manufacture other packaging. It makes their product more sustainable because it’s not going into landfill and they don’t have to find a way to dispose of their waste.”
Already there are examples of where organisations have been able to take action to improve the way they operate. “We partnered with a retailer shipping fluid milk to its network of stores, which involved working with the retailer and the dairies – so we weren’t just spreading out or moving the pain to a different area,” says Mr Petersen. “We came up with a solution that was much more sustainable but also more cost-effective. But that wouldn’t have been achievable if just the retailer or the dairy were going to do it. It needed that collaboration.” ORBIS has also worked with a number of associations to create impact calculators, which can help to assess both the environmental and financial returns on such projects, he adds. ORBIS works with customers to calculate the environmental impacts of their packaging programs, in terms of solid waste, energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.
Aside from the environmental and financial benefits of moving towards more sustainable supply chains, there’s also a growing reputational reason why organisations should act. “Young consumers are very conscious of the decisions around how products are made and distributed,” says Mr Petersen. “They want to buy from sustainable brands. This is more than just the sustainable products in their shopping cart, but rather the end-to-end sustainability of the entire supply chain, from the manufacturing plant to the point of purchase.
But this isn’t something organisations can achieve on their own, he warns. “There are a lot of people in the industry that are willing to help businesses find a better way to do this,” he points out. “It’s a better way for the supply chain, and for the environment. We can get there together.”
ORBIS Corporation operates in more than 50 locations and has more than 2,600 employees in North America and Europe. To find out more about how ORBIS can help your business reduce your impact on the environment, visit orbiscorporation.com.
Plastic packaging has a sustainable future. Delivering effective, circular packaging solutions that are both convenient for consumers and don’t negatively impact the planet is a challenge packaging manufacturers and global food and beverage brands are stepping up to.
But plastic packaging has a terrible public perception. Hashtags like #plasticfree and #noplastic abound on social media. The plastic industry is facing both the emotional issue of consumers influencing brands to move away from plastic, and the technical issue of insufficient infrastructure to collect, sort and recycle plastic waste.
Yet while alternative packaging materials may be more socially acceptable, are they really “better”? Will the current popularity of alternatives to plastic be short-lived, thanks to their depletion of natural resources and negative environmental impact, including larger greenhouse gas emissions?
Global Forest Watch reports that “40 per cent of global deforestation is commodity driven”, with paper packaging a contributing factor. From 2001 to 2018, 361 million hectares of trees were destroyed, equivalent to a 9 per cent reduction of the world’s forests . Over the same period, paper consumption increased by 26 per cent, with 55 per cent of its volume attributed to packaging .
Glass packaging production also negatively impacts on the environment. The proportion of silica – the mineral known as quartz sand – in the manufacture of glass is about 70 per cent. Studies on the natural reserves of silica indicate that extraction and high consumption of this mineral damages the environment and leads to the depletion of its reserves. Moreover, the high melting point of the material in glass packaging production is a source of significant CO2 emissions, and impacts negatively on climate change.
PET packaging is the most popular choice for mineral water, still and carbonated drinks, beer, dairy products, and vegetable oils. PET is also widely used in medicine as well as cosmetics and household chemicals. It is cheap, light, easily moulded and branded, non-breakable, has high barrier properties and does not impair the product’s quality. Thanks to these advantages, the consumption of plastic packaging continues to grow. According to a Smithers report, global plastic packaging consumption was projected at 58.6 million tonnes in 2019 and is forecast to grow during 2019-24 at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent, to 69.8 million tonnes . According to Euromonitor International research, the total share of plastic packaging is about 60 per cent of the entire packaging market.
While studies show that consumers prefer this type of packaging, it is necessary to find multifaceted solutions to show that plastic can be both convenient and sustainable. In most European countries, PET is already widely recyclable in standard collections, giving it a valuable second life as recycled PET, or rPET.
Image provided by RETAL
Global PET and rPET packaging producer RETAL* has more than 20-years of expertise in plastics manufacturing, and is increasingly active in circular economy initiatives and the promotion of public awareness of used PET packaging. Anatoly Martynov, President of RETAL, asserts that how we manage plastic packaging beyond its first use underpins everything and impacts everyone. Insufficient understanding by consumers of their responsibilities for the disposal of used packaging and poor collection infrastructure can both lead to serious problems of environmental pollution. In addition, the long-term payback period of recycling projects is the reason for the insufficient development of the recycling industry.
The goal for every PET packaging company is to minimise its negative environmental impact. RETAL works closely with its global customers to ensure that its packaging meets the strictest criteria. The company is also active in various sustainability-driven plastic packaging value chain organisations, including PETcore, the Circular Plastics Alliance and Waste Free Oceans.
On the technical side, RETAL has developed the capacity and expertise to produce preforms from up to 100 per cent recycled PET, and continuously works towards creating innovative, patented “design to recycle” solutions that use lightweighting and tethered closures.
With consistent investment in additional lines planned over the next five years, the recycling of used PET bottles at NEO Group is expected to reach 4.5 billion units per year.
NEO GROUP, part of RETAL Industries, is also actively involved in the implementation of the circular economy. One of its main projects is the launch of a production line that will produce PET resin containing rPET. The first phase is planned to be completed in 2020. With consistent investment in additional lines planned over the next five years, the recycling of used PET bottles at NEO Group is expected to reach 4.5 billion units per year. Thanks to the new lines, a significant share of the European market’s demand for recycled content will be produced by NEO.
Since 2015, NEO GROUP** has participated in the Horizon 2020 program, which promotes greater resource efficiency and reduced environmental impact for waste by developing beneficial workflow for recycled materials, industrial by-products and by using rPET. Since 2018, programme participants, including NEO GROUP, have been actively working on chemical recycling. This technology will boost the ability to recycle “contaminated” PET, which cannot currently be recycled using mechanical methods. Practically 100 per cent of used PET can be chemically recycled, and it can be recycled unlimited times. This is a revolutionary technology that truly supports the circular economy.
All these factors come together to illustrate how RETAL is active in closing the loop, contributing to environmentally responsible solutions and meeting the requirements of the EU Single-Use Plastics Directive.
While no single business can effectively tackle climate change or solve the problem of environmental pollution by itself, a joined-up approach to plastics circular economy that takes into consideration all the relevant stakeholders will allow PET packaging to realise its true value, and change its negative perception to a positive potential.
by Emmanuel Duffaut, Sustainability Director, RETAL, Group level, Viktorija Jureviciute, General Manager, RETAL Baltic, Gediminas Paulauskas, Member of the Board, NEO Group
For more information, visit Retal’s website here.
* RETAL develops and manufactures high-quality polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging solutions, including preforms, closures, containers and films. Globally active, RETAL supplies customers in over 60 countries worldwide. Strongly focused on quality management standards, RETAL is ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 22000 accredited. Parent company RETAL Industries Ltd is headquartered in Limassol, Cyprus.
** NEO Group is a PET manufacturer for food and beverage packaging. With the introduction of its third production line in 2018, the company has become one of the largest PET manufacturers in Europe. NEO GROUP expanded into the chemical recycling of PET waste in 2011 in order to provide a complete, responsible service to its clients, with NEOPOLYOL also popular for use in the construction industry. NEO GROUP serves around 300 companies in over 30 countries.
The five major industrial trends in packaging technology for 2020 are spotlighted in this piece from Packaging and branding portal Packaging Gateway. Corrugated packaging is expected to experience a breakthrough thanks to its qualities that make the material a likely candidate to replace plastic in a high number of use cases, especially in the area of e-commerce. The kind of packaging consumers will increasingly look for will also have a high degree of recyclability, with edible packaging gaining traction, while smart packaging is set to further enhance customer experience as well as enable companies to track their products and ingest more data about customer behaviour. In terms of design, minimalism is expected to prevail.
The idea of a plastic tax is gaining traction in Europe, with government initiatives backed by both environmental organisations and consumers. Businesses and trade associations engaged in the plastics industry, however, are pointing out what they see as the unintended consequences of such a tax, such as the burden it places on poor households and a potential increase in emissions as an unintended consequence.
The concept has already led to controversy in Italy, however, where a proposed tax on plastic has already divided the country’s precarious new coalition government. The proposed tax, which would require Italian companies to pay a €1 levy on every kilogram of plastic produced, is seen as a blow to the high-performing Italian plastic sector, which brings in a turnover of around €40 billion a year and employs 150,000 people.
An article in Inside Packaging’s 2019 yearbook on smart packaging provides brand owners with an overview of the three main points of weakness in the supply chain and the ways in which these points are exposed to the danger of counterfeiting. In the UK, the annual global cost of counterfeiting is estimated to be £1.2 trillion, and the problem is rising in cost and scope by around 15 per cent every year.
However, the good news is that cutting-edge technology can mitigate the risks that counterfeiting – as well as other dangers to brands such as simulation, adulteration and tampering – can pose. And no matter whether the solution suited to the problem is the blockchain or track-and-trace systems, packaging, and especially labelling, will play a leading role in them.
In a bid to provide viable alternatives to single-use and unrecyclable plastic, manufacturers can often come up with rash solutions that are sometimes as detrimental to the environment and human health as plastic itself is. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), for example, has warned that increasingly popular bamboo cups shouldn’t be used for hot liquids, as they contain melamine resin, a polymer the monomers of which are toxic and can cause cancer.
Source: Zita Goldman, Business Reporter