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Highlights of Packaging Innovations Show

Wrap-up - 28/02/2020

Our round-up of what's been happening in the world of flexible packaging this week. 

Packaging Innovations 2020 – our highlights from the show 

It was great to see so many of our peers, colleagues, and experts (as well as competitors!) come together to discuss the sustainability of the packaging industry. Angela Fredericks, British Plastics Federation, noted “lots of people visiting the BPF stand looking for information on plastics, for technical and legislative guidance as well as how to be sustainable with making the right decisions.” 

Our highlights included:

Greenwashing 

  • Very good panel discussion on "greenwashing". Presented with the opening question "what is greenwashing?", David Burrows, Environmental Writer and Researcher, referred to The Guardian’s definition as "exaggeration, absurd claims or downright lies that big business makes about its green credentials". Greenwashing was felt, on the whole, to be unintended, mainly due to a lack of understanding of materials and end-of-life process. Jo Bybus, Essity UK's Environment and Retailer Compliance Controller, highlighted just how difficult it is for brand owners to navigate and make the right decisions without consistency in guidance. 
  • A key question that should be asked at the outset of any packaging strategy formulation is "do we need it in the first place?" with Tesco's removal of multi-pack tin packaging used as a good example of this "big thinking".  
  • A key theme was the danger of focusing on the packaging to support the "sustainability" credentials of a company and detracting attention from the bigger environmental impact of an organisation's activity. Also, packaging plays a vital role in protecting the product, which has a much higher carbon footprint and use of resources than the packaging itself.
  • Also raised by Suez's Sarah Ottaway was the use of vague terms like "sustainability" and "biodegradable". What are the alternatives to plastic? And what are the unintended consequences of switching, for example, from a plastic to a compostable material? Guidance is needed, starting with the UK Plastics Pact WRAP document on compostable packaging and best applications published this month. 
  • Haulwen Nicholas, Director of the Packaging Oracle, called for the industry to have “one voice” to educate government and customers. She also highlighted the importance of understanding the whole environmental impact of your material in the supply chain, or rather, supply “circle” as advocated by Simon Wilson, MD of Vanden Recycling. 

Design Innovation

  • On the Design Innovation Stage, Paul Davidson, SSPP Challenge Director for UKRI, talked about "low fossil carbon materials" being an interesting part of the future. He also urged the audience "if you are going to switch, please do it carefully".
  • A key point was that material choice matters. It is really important to make informed decisions about your choice of packaging based on data and scientific evidence to understand the lifecycle of a material and to ensure your product is protected, presented, and preserved. 
  • Paul referred to the positive benefits of plastic in his talk on smart sustainable plastic packaging (SSPP). However, he also highlighted the need to tackle waste management and carbon footprint. Otherwise, the sustainability of plastics is questionable. 

The BIG Carbon Debate 

And we close with Margaret Bates, OPRL, in The BIG Carbon Debate, successfully arguing "plastic has done nothing wrong, it's the way we mismanage our plastic" and “plastic could be part of the solution”.  As stated by Barry Turner of the BPF, the "secret is circular economy".  The motion “this house believes that we will fail to meet net-zero carbon targets, if we ban plastic packaging” was not overturned as the opponents failed to convince the audience that plastic is not part of a decarbonised future.

Let’s #valueplastic. 

Some product highlights from the show:

  • Congratulations to Gaprie, of New Zealand, who won the 2020 Ecopack Challenge, supported by M&S. Gaprie's P.C.Nets provide an environmentally-friendly alternative to single-use stretch-wrap for pallets, reducing plastic usage and providing a reusable solution. 
  • Other innovative products showcased included the all-PE X-CYCLE film from Hatzopoulus and the Aquapak FFS pouch. 
  • Introducing Earth Packaging as a plastic replacement, Simon Balderson, owner of Sirane Group, claimed plastic food packaging is a "tough act to follow" illustrating three "non-negotiables" of plastic: 
  1. its ability to extend shelf life.
  2. its "processability"- using same machinery to achieve similar packing efficiences and speed.
  3. economics - plastic is cheap and any replacement would need to achieve a cost equivalence. 

News from the aisles

  • LIDL introduces seafood packaging using plastic waste destined for the oceans.
  • Aldi has announced plans to remove all plastic lids from many of its own-label products including fresh cream and ready-to-drink coffee.
  • Waitrose has been voted best grocer in Which?


AND FINALLY …

  • Sack the Sachet – A Plastic Planet calls for ban on plastic sachets, stating we are "slaves to the sachet". 
  • Second sight – The Government has seen the Second Reading of the Environment Bill.
  • Pic of the litter pick – we've been busy helping to tidy our beautiful, historic town.
  • Flippin’ good… our MD Charles Smithson cooked the entire KM team pancakes this week with an amazing array of choice from raspberries, blueberries, orange, lemon or chocolate spread... Thank you! 
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