Industry Opinion: Why should Plastic Packaging take the W.R.A.P?

Stuart Pritchard July 9, 2019

Chairman of National Flexible, BARRY TWIGG, looks to bring facts and balance to the plastic waste debate…

I am fast approaching a state of ‘Plastic Paranoia Exhaustion’. Each and every day, without exception, I am bombarded by the media, the BBC, the newspapers and/or the internet with negative publicity about plastics, all of which have some common content, i.e.

  • 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped each year in the world’s oceans!
  • By 2050, there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans than fish!
  • We are each consuming 50,000 pieces of micro plastic in a year!
  • Whales are dying from plastic ingestion!
  • Pristine beaches around the world are being buried in a mountain of discarded plastic waste!

Now, David Attenborough is feted at Glastonbury for condemning plastic bottles, someone should tell him they are all fully recyclable, but if we follow his logic, they should presumably be replaced by glass bottles which are much more expensive environmentally both to manufacture and recycle, but presumably they can be refilled easier!

Then, Boots is lauded for replacing plastic bags with paper. A change which will simply add to climate change. Meanwhile, Tesco is encouraged to remove plastic packaging from perishable produce which will undoubtably increase food waste, but Tesco seem reluctant to point this out.

SUPERMARKET SWEEP

The latest addition to this diatribe is a paper from W.R.A.P, ‘Eliminating Problem Plastics’ which lists those plastic items which the Government has either banned or is in the process of doing so. These include, plastic cutlery, cotton buds with plastic stems, plastic stirrers, plastic straws, disposable plastic plates and bowls, polystyrene products, etc, etc. All this is very laudable and it’s reasonable to believe that we can survive without any of these plastic items.

However, the report then goes on to extend this thinking to other products such as plastic bags. This is despite all the evidence that the plastic bag tax has resulted in more plastic being used, not less. Previously 70% of all ‘single use’ plastic bags were reused (DEFRA report 2014). These have now been replaced with heavy duty, ‘bags for life’ which unfortunately are being sold in bulk by the supermarkets, whilst sales of plastic bin liners of all types have also soared thanks to the law of unintended consequences.

The W.R.A.P report then goes on to propose we investigate the replacement of plastic film for produce bags, crisps, fruit and veg, plus multilayer pouches. All of which contribute to reducing food waste by extending its shelf life or reduce packaging waste by replacing board, glass or tin. The report includes caveats such as: ‘Ensuring food waste does not increase’, seemingly the report obviously ignoring the fact that this is exactly why virtually all of this plastic packaging is there.

In my experience, no supermarket I have ever dealt with will ever spend money on something they don’t need!

THE FACTS

At no point in their latest report do W.R.A.P propose using plastic packaging then take positive actions to aid its collection and disposal. They presume it can simply be eliminated, albeit with the caveats that food waste is not created, and alternative materials should be investigated?

W.R.A.P should know it is virtually certain any alternative material to plastic will (based on a full life cycle analysis) use more of the Earth’s resources, and/or, add to climate change due to its CO2 emissions. Plastic in all its various forms has one major drawback, that is the way we dispose of it after its use. Plastic is not only the most economical solution to most food packaging it is also the least environmentally demanding or damaging.

In these circumstances, W.R.A.P should be promoting plastic to reduce food and packaging waste and not simply jumping on the bandwagon of Plastic Paranoia. It seems as though they are trying to please all the people all the time and losing site of their reason for existence.

#DONTHATEPLASTIC

I must add my own caveat, National Flexible will supply its customers with whatever packaging they wish to use, Compostable, Biodegradable, Paper on the reel, etc. What we will not do is pretend these materials are environmentally superior in some way to plastic as this is simply not true.

As ever I welcome your views on any of the points made and why not join me on LinkedIn for more regular contact.