U.K. recycling minister calls for government, Foodservice Packaging Assn. to work together to meet packaging reduction targets, FPA CEO says industry must collaborate on addressing sustainability issues, support innovative solutions
BLETCHINGDON, United Kingdom
January 17, 2012
– Parliamentary Under Secretary and government spokesperson for DEFRA, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, the Minister for Waste & Recycling, acknowledged the vital role that foodservice packaging plays in reducing food waste and the valuable contribution the industry makes to the UK.
Lord Taylor also called for a greater level of partnership between the government and the FPA and highlighted the conflict between the government’s desire to reduce food waste and meet packaging reduction targets. He said: “We will be looking to the FPA to help us achieve our ambitions for recycling and reducing food waste in the UK by continuing their positive work.”
Lord Taylor was speaking as part of the FPA’s Environment Seminar, on January 12, 2012, alongside a panel of senior industry figures. During questions Lord Taylor was challenged on the lack of cohesion in local authority waste and recycling polices, which leads to confusion amongst consumers. He responded that the government was aware of the issues and that the various government departments are keen to work together to develop policy and increase recycling. However the government’s localism agenda meant that local authorities would continue to decide their own patterns, within a framework of better integration.
He was also challenged on the consultation period for industry to respond to the proposed revised targets. He assured the audience that this is a genuine consultation and the government will listen to industry. He explained that the proposed targets are tough but achievable. However delegates at the FPA Seminar remained sceptical that these targets are achievable.
Lord Taylor’s speech was followed by John Williams from the NNFCC, the UK’s National Centre for Bio renewable Energy, Fuels and Materials, who gave a wide ranging overview of material developments and the options open to packaging manufacturers, particularly in relation to recyclable bio plastics resources from non fossil resources. His core message, that retailers and brand owners are now fully engaged and committed to developing new formats and working together throughout the supply chain, was well received. Neil Whittall, Chairman of the FPA, welcomed the examples that Dr Williams gave, but highlighted the challenge of educating the consumer with accurate facts and avoiding ‘green wash’.
Dr Richard Swannell from WRAP followed Dr Williams, explaining why material resource efficiency matters. Of the 600 million tonnes of ‘stuff’ consumed each year, 205 million tonnes remains in the UK and ends up was waste. Although 115 million tonnes is now recycled, there is still a huge gap that needs addressing. The foodservice and hospitality sectors need to play an important role in that plan. WRAP estimates that the hospitality sector is responsible for 3.4 million tonnes of food waste each year. Food comprises 50% of that total, with paper, glass, card and metal a significant part of the remainder. Dr Swannell highlighted that £722 million could be saved by the sector by not wasting it.
Dr Swannell illustrated how voluntary agreements can work with the Love Food Hate Waste campaign and called on the hospitality industry to address preventing waste and dealing with the waste stream. Education is key in helping business reduce waste and deal with waste management. WRAP is working with industry to help find simple ways to change practice in order to reduce waste.
Dick Searle from the Packaging Association put the packaging sector in perspective by illustrating the critical role that packaging plays in delivering convenience to modern consumers. Packaging is not the ‘necessary evil’ that it’s sometime accused of but is an essential enabler, the delivery system for products to get them safely from the point of manufacture to the consumer. Food packaging contributes to the ‘green economy’ by minimising the amount of food waste through protecting the product. Although packaging features strongly in waste debates, it only accounts for 3% of landfill and contributes £11 billion to the UK economy each year; food and then foodservice packaging comprises just a small element of this 3% total. The packaging industry has also been at the forefront of innovation since the 1950’s, developing products, formats and concepts that have a key role to play in society. What the industry needs to do is to work together to address excess packaging, continue to innovate sustainable formats and educate consumers – Mr Searle highlighted the ‘Myth Busters Group’ and called for joint messaging to communicate with consumers and for government policy to recognise that packaging conserves more resources than it uses.
The Panel debate, chaired by Josh Brooks, Editor, Packaging News, generated much debate amongst delegates and the panel and covered a wide range of topics as they related specifically to the foodservice sector. A number of issues were addressed including the proposed WRAP Voluntary Agreement on food and packaging waste in the hospitality sector, the resources required to process the proposed increases in recycling, the requirements for better waste handling infrastructure, and the need for packaging to be fit for purpose. Jof Walters, CEO of Save-A-Cup, who joined the panel for the debate, highlighted that the recycling business is still in its infancy and that much has been achieved to date. Demand for recycled plastic produce outstrips supply so there is plenty of scope for business development. It was also emphasised that the sustainable solution is to process waste locally and not send waste material round the world
Reviewing the Seminar, FPA Chairman Neil Whittall said: “It’s encouraging to see recognition by the government of the positive role that packaging plays. We are developing a positive working relationship with bodies such as WRAP and encouraging stakeholders throughout the supply chain to recognise the responsibilities that they have and work together to find sustainable solutions. Our speakers, including Lord Taylor, highlighted the challenges we face as a sector, but also the many opportunities there are to really make a difference without compromising the business of our members.”