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The Argument Against Plastics Has Become Emotional

Carbon was the main topic of conversation at Packaging Innovations 2020, which returned to Birmingham’s NEC on 26 & 27 February, with exhibitors and speakers alike putting the industry’s hottest subject in the spotlight. While exhibitors showcased the sector’s latest developments and technologies designed to lower packaging’s carbon impact, the two-day seminar programme featured the latest industry thinking, with the likes of DEFRA, Coca-Cola, Britvic, and Carlsberg taking a deep dive into sustainable packaging.

The focus was on carbon when Kevin Vyse, Head of Technology at Rapid Action Packaging UK and ex-Circular Economy Expert at M&S, took to the stage, stating: “We are acting quickly, but we are not looking at the facts. It is carbon that is killing the planet, not packaging. As we create new solutions to replace plastic, we are actually releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than ever before. The reason we are in such a mess is that we are reacting to opinion which is leading us down the wrong paths. We have to keep looking for new ways of thinking and challenging the ways we do things currently to make sure they are right.”

New for 2020 was the “BIG Carbon Debate”. The newly designed seminar session aimed to facilitate important and necessary discussions. Simon Balderson, Owner at Sirane Group, one of the debate’s panellists said: “I fear the argument against plastics has become emotional. People aren’t anti-plastic because of the carbon footprint, they are anti-plastic because they see images of dead whales. If all packaging came from plants and trees, there would be a huge carbon sink. Industries have to work collaboratively to find a solution.”

Plastics were still in focus during the presentation by Margaret Bates, Executive Director at OPRL, who stated: “We need to differentiate between plastic and plastic pollution. Plastic has never done anything wrong; it is our mismanagement of it that is the problem.”

The Debate also saw experts from the likes of British Plastics Federation, Veolia, WWF, MPMA, University of Sheffield and City to Sea tackle one of the industry’s most contentious topics – whether banning plastic packaging in the UK would impact the Government’s plan to achieve its carbon-zero targets. Ultimately, the audience voted in favour of the movement, agreeing that banning plastic would impact the Government’s ability to meet its carbon targets.

“The BIG Carbon Debate raised some great points about the wider impact of packaging. It isn’t just about demonising plastic but about collaboration,” commented Julie Simmons, Bactiglas Product Manager at Wells Plastics.

Following the recent news that world-leading drinks brand, Coca-Cola, is not going to shy away from using plastic bottles, Nick Brown, Head of Sustainability at Coca-Cola, joined a panel discussion to explore how brands can get consumers to play their part in facilitating the recycling process.

“The science is absolutely clear. By 2050, at the latest, packaging and business models must be carbon-zero…that’s why we are investing in deposit return schemes, to make it as easy as possible for consumers to recycle our packaging.” Brown was also joined by experts from WRAP, Green Alliance, OPRL, and Hubbub during the discussion.

As always, innovation was firmly on the agenda, as the “Visit the Future Hub” was introduced. As part of the new zone, the Innovation Showcase displayed 12 of the most innovative designs from the show floor, with FFP Packaging Solutions being awarded “Most Innovative Pack”, after receiving 110 votes from show visitors. Its design, Esterseal, is a resealable pack that is certified ‘recycle’ by OPRL and can be collected in its entirety through the existing waste collection system.

Renan Joel, Event Director of Easyfairs’ UK Packaging Portfolio, commented: “Packaging Innovations 2020 has been an unforgettable show. The seminar sessions started up some really interesting conversations on the subject of sustainability and discussions kept going throughout the show, with parties from right across the packaging supply chain getting involved. It is fantastic that our event is such a well-respected platform for the sharing of industry insights and ideas.


Download Hub Packagings’ plan to stop excess packaging from entering the supply chain – “The Future is Precycled” here.

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