British Plastics Federation Director warns against “hard” Brexit, backs EPR scheme
11 Mar 2019 --- The Director for Plastic and Flexible Packaging at the British Plastics Federation (BPF) has warned against the adverse effects of a “hard” Brexit on the entire value chain. Speaking to PackagingInsights during the recent Packaging Innovations show in Birmingham, UK, Barry Turner explained that uncertainty around exports, investment decisions and the supply of raw materials could cause significant disruption to the packaging industry. In a wide-ranging interview, Turner also explained his preference for an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) scheme over a plastics tax because he wants reassurance that reinvestments will be made directly within the UK plastics industry.
PackagingInsights: With Brexit less than a month away, what effects might it have on the UK plastics packaging industry?
Turner: It’s already had an impact. This uncertainty around whether we will have a “hard” Brexit or a “soft” Brexit has been most concerning to a lot of BPF industry members. Uncertainty is never good for business – investment decisions get deferred and companies are unsure whether they will be able to stock or supply the raw materials that they need. They are also unsure of how their exports might be affected. So, at this moment in time, there’s an awful lot of nervousness. Certainly, if we go “hard” Brexit that will have an adverse impact on not just the plastics sector but many sectors across our industry.
PackagingInsights: The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) recently announced plans to implement an EPR scheme. Do you think this will be effective in minimizing plastic packaging waste?
Turner: DEFRA has some very good proposals. The proposed EPR system offers real incentivizes to drive people to use more sustainable applications right across the supply chain. We hope this will help to achieve best design and therefore optimize the use of material. Also, one of the things the industry has been wanting for a long time is consistency in the collection of the packaging from the consumer at curbside – that’s one of the proposals in the consultations recently issued and we are very pleased to see that. Both this and the EPR alone should reduce waste and drive up recycling rates and we look forward to participating in these schemes.
PackagingInsights: DEFRA also announced plans to implement a tax on plastic packaging containing less than 30 percent of recycled plastic content. Do you think this is also an effective strategy?
Turner: We would have preferred to see this implemented through the EPR scheme if we are brutally honest. The reason is that we want to see any money that is raised reinvested in making sure all plastics get collected and recycled effectively – our concern with the approach of a tax is that that money might not all be reinvested in the system. If that happens, then it wouldn’t have the desired effect. We desperately need to build up the infrastructure in the UK and make sure more recycling happens here at home.
PackagingInsights: Do you think there is a danger that the rising tide of anti-plastic sentiment will cause consumers to lose sight of the environmental benefits of plastic packaging?
Turner: I think that is a real danger at the moment. You see these very compelling images on media every day of plastics in the oceans and the natural environment and I think people are concerned about these images and rightly so. We don’t want to see plastics in the natural environment either – we want to see them put back to good use. But when people look at what the alternatives bring and the impacts that they have, I think that’s when the plastics concern starts to be eroded somewhat. Actually, the alternative materials require far more resources than plastics and therefore have a less beneficial overall effect on the environment.
PackagingInsights: What role does the BPF play within the UK plastics industry?
Turner: The BPF represents the entire plastics supply chain – everyone from the materials suppliers through to the converters and even some of the users of plastics. Our role is simply to inform our members and to represent them. Obviously, at this very interesting time for plastics where there is an intensive debate about its role now and in the future, we need to make sure that the facts get across and that plastics get a fair hearing.
PackagingInsights: In what ways is the plastics value chain pushing the boundaries of sustainability?
Turner: One of the big debates at the moment is making sure there’s enough demand for recycled plastics and there are some companies out there that are really leading the pack in this regard. In the trays market, this includes companies like KP Packaging, which has recycled content in its food trays which has been driven up to about 90 percent. There are also lots of innovations in flexible packaging at this moment in time to make packages easier to recycle. Meanwhile, polymer suppliers are working to include recycled content in plastic material so that structures that previously would have had no recycled content will now have that credential. There are lots of examples out there of good things happening.
By Joshua Poole
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.