The Packaging Innovations show at the NEC, held at the end of February could, at a pinch, be described as the Glastonbury of the packaging world. Alongside supplier exhibits, there are plenty of opportunities to meet up with colleagues and attend talks and discussions from professionals in the industry.
The BBC’s Blue Planet, the UK Government’s 25 year plan and Iceland Foods’ announcement that they intend to go plastic free on their own brand products by 2023 has ignited an enormous amount of debate throughout both industry and the general public.
Rightly so, the Packaging Innovations organisers, Easyfairs leapt on this opportunity and planned as the headline event ‘The Big Plastics Debate’ a session of talks and a panel discussion with key industry players.
Martin Kersh from the Foodservice Packaging Association spoke on legislation. The stand out points for me were;
- The Packaging Industry’s frustration with the public’s understanding of the issues (using the anti-straw campaign as an example),
- A call for legislation reform to encourage the incorporation of recycled material into packaging, and
- For all brand owners to join a packaging waste compliance scheme, not just those above a certain turnover.
Ian Schofield shared Iceland’s vision for their own brand products. The retailer says they have listened to their customers and by eliminating plastic are giving them what they want. Interestingly he is avoiding the use of bioplastics marketed as compostable or biodegradable. He acknowledged that it wouldn’t always be easy, but Iceland have made a strong statement of intent and they are sticking with it.
The discussion panel, which took questions from the floor included Ian Ferguson from the Co-op, Nick Brown from Coca-Cola and Kevin Vyse from M&S. Slightly disappointingly, it was a very well mannered affair. You can view the whole session here on youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Zib38FsFjU
So who won the debate?
Interestingly the retailers and brand-owners seemed to have more in common than differences. They all (naturally) want to keep food waste to a minimum, in which plastic plays an important part, move away from plastic where possible and increase the recyclability and recycled content of the plastics they are left with – Iceland’s first step for frozen food bags is to move away from laminates to more easily recycled monolayers; Coca-Cola intend to dramatically increase the use of recycled content of their bottles over the coming years.
In summary, it was an interesting couple of hours. It would have been good to see more variety in the panel – maybe someone from Surfers Against Sewage or Friends of the Earth and the British Plastics Federation who have been very vocal on the subject , but it was a good start, and it will be interesting to see how much progress has been made this time next year.
Do you think the packaging industry is doing enough to combat plastic waste? Add your comments below.
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