How to manage the impact of a Plastic Waste Levy & Plastic Packaging Tax
by Mark Barter, Wessex Packaging MD.
Following rising pressure from environmental groups, some high profile public figures and now the Chancellor in his budget speech, plastic packaging waste has gone right to the top of the agenda. Images of huge amounts of waste plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean and beautiful beaches littered with seaborne rubbish have recently covered the front pages of the media.
The Chancellor’s statement;
“The Government will seek views on reducing single-use plastics waste through the tax system and charges. Disposable plastics like coffee cups, toothpaste tubes and polystyrene takeaway boxes damage our environment. This follows the success of the 5p carrier bag charge, which has reduced the use of plastic bags by 80% in the last two years.”
The move to tackle the problem of single-use plastics, which include packaging and bubble wrap, and polystyrene takeaway boxes, has been welcomed by environmental campaigners.
A spokesperson for the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) said:
“We welcome the investigation announced by the Chancellor. The evidence is already there to show that our oceans are choking in plastic.
“We’ve seen how a small charge has made a big difference with plastic carrier bags, and applying this to all throwaway plastics would lead to a significant drop in damaging plastics getting into our streets, rivers and seas.’
Over the next few years, it is clear that consumers are going to be demanding not only recyclable, but biodegradable packaging. As an industry, we need to be aware that consumers are a powerful force, they vote with their feet and their actions have implications that we must respond to.. Businesses should be thinking more than ever before about their own brand when they consider how they pack and despatch their goods.
So, putting aside all the hype, what should UK Plc be doing about this?
The Packaging Industry is uniquely placed to lead change and to take responsibility for a huge problem that is not just going to disappear. Amazon have eliminated plastic air bags from their packaging a couple of years ago and replaced them with brown kraft paper. They are now introducing paper mailing bags instead of plastic and the rest of the online retail industry will be under pressure to follow.
What is going to happen next?
A four week consultation on bringing back deposit return schemes for bottles ended last week and the Department of Environment is due to report back shortly. In addition to this, expect pressure to increase for paper based packaging alternatives, especially for B2C industries. Companies that are ahead of their game will move in this direction anyway and strengthen their brand.
10 ways to reduce plastic packaging in your business;
- Replace bubble wrap and plastic airbags with environmentally friendly paper alternatives
- Use a lighter high performance alternative to the material you are already using. This cuts the volume of plastic in the waste cycle accordingly
- Stop using polystyrene loose fill and replace with paper alternative
- Use a Nano multilayer stretch wrap film to wrap your pallets instead of conventional stretch wrap
- Replace heat shrink film with stretch wrap, this typically reduces plastic usage by up to 70%
- Invest in modern, efficient machinery for wrapping pallets
- Replace PVC and PP tape with water activated gummed paper tape
- Use cardboard retention packaging and eliminate the need for plastic void fill
- Wherever possible use re-usable multi trip packaging
- Use timber based presswood pallets rather than plastic
I’m delighted to lead the team at Wessex Packaging that is actively sourcing new environmentally friendly products, and to work with our customers to help manage a more efficient and effective plastic reduction process in their businesses.
‘Reducing single-use plastic waste’ is No.20 in the Autumn Budget 2017 : 25 Things You Need To Know – read the full list here.
Read the Department of the Enviroment’s press release on ‘Views sought on reward and return schemes for drinks containers’ on their website here.