ATS-Tanner sales manager: Paper banding solutions in big demand since UK Plastic Packaging Tax
14 Jun 2022 --- UK demand for plastic-reduced banding solutions has been increasing since the Plastic Packaging Tax was introduced in April, according to ATS-Tanner. We discussed the rise of paper-based banding solutions with Robert Cohen, the company’s area sales manager, at the recent Packaging Innovations trade show in Birmingham, UK.
The Swiss group is unique for its ultrasonic banding machines, which avoid the higher maintenance requirements of heat seal machines. The company offers banding materials and machines in a single solution model, serving the food, print and other industries.
“We have seen, especially in the UK, increased demand for solutions where we can reduce the plastic or completely take it out, mainly for products that are traditionally shrink-wrapped,” says Cohen. “The Plastic Packaging Tax increases demand for paper and incentivizes us to find plastic-reduced solutions. But there are shortages of paper.”
The tax places a £200 (US$242) per metric ton levy on producers or importers failing to comply with the minimum requirement of 30% recycled plastic in new plastic packaging.
Circular economy solutions
ATS-Tanner is also working to incorporate recycled plastic into its banding solutions to comply with the tax. However, this technical challenge has not yet been overcome.
“We tried to incorporate recycled plastic into our bands but unfortunately, recycled plastic makes the material too weak to be used for banding. But we are still looking into solutions for recycled plastic,” shares Cohen.
The company’s plastic bands are not recyclable, but they are carbon-neutral. However, its paper bands are recyclable.
“All our machines can run plastic and paper without difficulty. We offer different types of plastics, and have made an effort to buy better paper solutions,” continues Cohen.
“The paper options have less plastic and, a few weeks ago, we introduced a paper with zero percent plastic.”
Automation and customers
ATS-Tanner offers non-automated machines to smaller companies and start-ups, which they can rent. However, the company specializes in automation systems using sensors, conveyors, robots and grippers for increased production efficiencies.
“A lot of people are looking for automation in order to use employees elsewhere and shift them more toward the engineering side rather than pure labor, especially when it comes to a 24/7 operation where labor is very hard,” explains Cohen.
“We try to be a service company where customers can always come to us for anything – so we cannot hide away from any issues the machine might have – if there is a problem with a machine, we know it is us that has to service it,” he concludes.
A tax worth paying?
Packaging Innovations 2022 brought the packaging industry together shortly after the introduction of the UK Plastic Packaging Tax and for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. Evidence of increased recycled content in plastic food packaging and innovation in fiber-based alternatives was apparent. However, we came to understand that many businesses are choosing to pay the tax rather than rely on scarce and costly food-grade recyclate.
Schur Star Systems sales manager Ian Weston told us the UK government must establish a nationally-unified recycling system and invest in chemical recycling to give businesses a realistic chance of complying with the tax.
Meanwhile, Andrew Smith, head of sales at Camvac, explained that the crippling costs and low availability of recycled food-grade plastic are encouraging businesses to pay the tax rather than embrace more circular packaging solutions.
By Joshua Poole
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