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21.02.2024
Latest News Wrap-Up / 21.02.2024

Collection trial shows flexible success

In our latest Wrap-Up … Collection trial shows flexible success. Survey counts the cost of waste. “Not for EU" label concerns. Plastic ban is upheld. Threat to packaging industry. Shops reintroduce flexible collections. Supermarket removes plastic tray packaging. Paper packaging causes predicament. We’re hiring. And more …

FOR STARTERS …

Collection trial shows flexible success

The FlexCollect trial focused on the weekly collection of flexible plastics across approximately 30,000 households has shown positive outcomes at its midway point.

Launched in 2022 across nine local authorities in the UK, the trial is set to continue until 2025. Key mid-term findings include:

  • Positivity: Collections have been well received, with over 89% of households expressing high satisfaction levels in four surveyed pilot areas.
  • Activity: 60% of households actively participate in the programme, contributing an average of 291g of flexible plastics per collection bag.
  • Quality: The collected flexible plastic packaging has a 90% recyclability rate, with only 10% contamination

Kerbside collection of flexible plastic packaging for recycling will be mandatory in England from March 2027.

IN STORES …

Supermarkets reintroduce flexible collections

Woolworths, Coles, and Aldi have introduced soft plastics collection bins in 12 stores in Melbourne, Australia. This initiative marks a significant step since the collapse of the REDcycle scheme.

A spokesperson for the Soft Plastics Taskforce – made up of the three supermarkets and chaired by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water – said the trial is possible because of new soft plastic recycling facilities that began operating last week.

Shops targeting plastic

  • Essential removal: Asda has removed conventional plastic tray packaging from its Just Essentials beef mince range. A lighter and recyclable flexible plastic alternative has replaced it. The new packaging reduces plastic usage by 60%, and the move is projected to remove 67.6 tonnes of plastic from Asda's supply chain annually.
     
  • Off the menu in cafes: Marks & Spencer has eliminated over four million units of plastic packaging from its 300 M&S Café outlets throughout the UK. The retailer has transitioned its entire range of M&S Café sandwiches and toasties to recyclable FSC-approved cardboard or paper packaging, resulting in a 79% reduction in plastic usage.
     
  • Cardboard usage mushrooms: Sainsbury's is transitioning its own-brand mushroom punnets from plastic to cardboard. This switch is set to save over 775 tonnes of plastic annually, equivalent to more than 52 million pieces of plastic, and representing the largest single plastics reduction in the retailer's history.
     
  • Flexible collections: Woolworths, Coles, and Aldi have introduced soft plastics collection bins in 12 stores in Melbourne, Australia. This initiative marks a significant step since the collapse of the REDcycle scheme and was made possible by the opening of new soft plastic recycling facilities.

RECYCLING NEWS …

Laundering waste away

Scientists from King's College, in London, have developed an innovative solution for recycling single-use bioplastics. The method employs enzymes typically present in biological laundry detergents to break down landfill-bound bioplastics through “depolymerisation”.

In just 24 hours, the items are converted into soluble fragments, achieving complete bioplastic polylactic acid (PLA) degradation. This approach is 84 times faster than the commonly used industrial composting process, which takes 12 weeks.

ALSO …

  • Missing the mark: Concerns over Europe possibly falling short of legislative recycling targets have been raised. Plastics Recyclers Europe has reported a 7% decline in the total installed plastics recycling capacity year-on-year growth rate.
  • Seas of change: Over 800 tonnes of rPET waste was collected by Klöckner Pentaplast (KP) in collaboration with Keep Sea Blue last year for new packaging. The partnership aims to close the loop on plastics waste, resulting in Recycled Coastal Plastics - a certified post-consumer recycled raw material sourced within 10 km of the Mediterranean coastline.
     
  • Technology – Parrot fashion: Dutch recycling firm Bollegraaf Group is investing in the UK AI start-up Greyparrot, whose technology includes a means of recovering valuable materials from mixed or contaminated waste streams.

INDUSTRY NEWS …

Labelling tensions

Mandating "not for EU" labels on meat, dairy, and plant products in UK supermarkets to address unionists' concerns in Northern Ireland is warned to escalate prices and hinder the battle against inflation.

The decision to make this labelling requirement universal from October, as part of a "safeguarding the union" deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), follows months of post-Brexit regulatory uncertainty.

Karen Betts, the chief executive at the Food and Drink Federation, claimed the requirement would cost the industry about £250m a year.

Plastic ban is upheld

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CURIA) has upheld the ban on oxo-degradable plastics in the market, emphasising environmental and health protection.

Legal challenges by UK-based Symphony Environmental against the 2019 EU directive prohibiting such plastics were dismissed.

Symphony Environmental's pro-oxidant additive, aimed at facilitating quicker biodegradation, prompted a lawsuit claiming £82 million in damages.

The court, however, ruled that the EU legislature's decision was justified, citing scientific evidence indicating low biodegradability and incompatibility with recycling technologies for oxo-degradable plastics.

Threat overlooks plastic benefits

An extensive anti-plastic sentiment poses a significant threat to the UK plastic packaging industry, says Chase Plastics, even if the shift towards perceived more sustainable packaging mediums may, in reality, have a more significant environmental impact.

The low-density polyethylene recycler has highlighted that the rush towards alternative packaging options often overlooks plastic's lightweight, durable, and hygienic qualities.

Lollipop makeover

One of Australia's best-known lollipop brands, Allen's, is undergoing a packaging makeover to reduce plastic usage significantly.

Brand owner Nestle is replacing the iconic red glossy bags with a matte finish and new designs. This initiative is part of Nestle's commitment to tackle plastic usage, aiming for a 21% reduction, equivalent to around 58 tons annually.

SUSTAINABLE TOPICS …

Paper or plastic predicament

Major companies are investing substantial amounts to develop paper packaging that can perform the functions of plastic while claiming to have a lighter environmental impact. However, according to The Grocer, the reality is not so simple.

Concerns about deforestation and the recyclability of the barriers and coatings used in paper-based packaging challenge the perception that paper is always the eco-friendly choice. Some key points include:

  • Approximately 3 billion trees are annually used to meet the global demand for paper packaging.
  • The UK's demand for paper packaging was 5 million tonnes in 2018.
  • It takes 2.5 tonnes of wood to produce one tonne of paper.
  • European paper and cardboard waste amounted to 32.7 million tonnes in 2020.

However, more than 60% of UK consumers consider paper to be the most sustainable option for packaging, as reported by Deloitte.

Coalition setting new standards

The UK's prominent food companies, collaborating with WRAP, IGD, and WWF-UK, have formed the BRC Mondra Coalition. This coalition aims to set a consolidated standard for product carbon footprinting in the grocery industry.

Leveraging advanced technology, it will enable efficient monitoring, improvement, and communication of product environmental performance. The initiative aligns with the BRC's 2040 Net Zero ambition, providing effective measurement and management of Scope 3 emissions.

Non-sustainable price dilemma

The higher cost of eco-friendly packaging often leads consumers to opt for cheaper, non-sustainable alternatives, according to recent UK data. Key findings include:

  • 68% of people either never purchase products with eco-friendly packaging or do so infrequently due to the perceived higher costs.
  • Only 25% of mature adults (50-64) regularly opt for eco-friendly packaging.
  • 39% of people express confusion about the reasons behind the higher prices of greener options.

IN TRAY SEALING …

Rev-ving up machinery

Packaging Automation has introduced the REV5, a revolutionary addition to their advanced REV machine range. The REV5 represents an advancement in speed, energy efficiency, and full automation. In addition, this fully electric machine eliminates the need for compressed air.

Stacker reduces workload

JBT's Proseal has introduced the fully-automated CDS Case De-Stacker, enhancing the efficiency of its case packing equipment range.

This innovative solution alleviates the workload on operators loading cases into automated packing machines. By automatically de-stacking cases and delivering them to the packing machine, it minimises the need for repetitive manual handling.

Compostable winners

The DualPakECO Certified Compostable Food Trays from Confoil & BASF has won in the Worldstar Global Packaging Awards. These trays, certified compostable, provide a sustainable alternative to traditional PET packaging for ready-to-eat meals.

MEANWHILE …

Counting the cost of waste

The Big Plastic Count, the UK's largest survey on household plastic waste, is being repeated from March 11-17.

Almost a quarter of a million people participated in the previous Big Plastic Count in 2022. It revealed:

  • UK households throw nearly two billion pieces of plastic packaging away weekly.
  • Just 12% was recycled in the UK, with the rest being burned, shipped abroad, or languished in landfills.
  • 83% of plastic recorded was from food and drink packaging waste, the most common item being fruit and vegetable packaging.

The initiative aims to build evidence to convince UK ministers to lead the way in global talks aimed at phasing out plastic pollution.

ELSEWHERE …

  • Registering consultation: Canada is consulting on a federal plastics registry to monitor and track plastic, including agricultural and food manufacturing packaging, throughout its life cycle in the Canadian market.
     
  • Plastic tax call: The Australia Institute's Director for Circular Economy and Waste, Nina Gbor, has called for a tax on plastic-producing companies, saying that recycling has failed to curb plastic waste growth. In a report, "Plastic Waste in Australia and the Recycling Greenwash," Gbor proposes a plastics tax to discourage consumption and generate more than £700 million for reinvesting in plastic reduction initiatives.
     
  • Paying the penalty: Business groups may face penalties from the European Parliament for aggressive lobbying against the EU's new rules to replace throwaway packaging with reusable alternatives.
     
  • Sweet partnership: Mondelez International has partnered with packaging company Amcor to secure 1000 tonnes of post-consumer recycled plastic, aiming to reduce its use of virgin plastic in flexible wrappers for the Cadbury chocolate range.

KM NEWS …

We've joined ocean clean sweep

We’re pleased to now be members of Operation Clean Sweep® (OCS), an international initiative from the plastics industry to reduce plastic pellet loss to the environment. In the UK, it is led by the British Plastics Federation.

WE’RE HIRING

Quality Technologist

To support our growth, KM Packaging are now seeking to recruit a Quality Technologist to join our technical team.

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY …

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