In light of the recent scrutiny the plastic packaging industry has been subjected to, including the BBC led Blue Planet programme regarding marine litter, the UK Government’s continuing commitment to reduce plastic and certain retailers’ pledges to eradicate all own-label (and ultimately all products) plastic packaging from their stores in 5 years (2023), Vow Packaging Partners Ltd has decided to clarify its position in the following statement, which forms part of a lengthier paper – please Contact Us to receive a copy. MD Matt Baldock writes:

As a business that intends on being at the forefront of the flexible packaging sector, Vow Packaging Partners has worked with its partners, supply chain and clients to aid the progression and inclusivity of the plastic packaging industry.

By being critical of the industry’s adaptation to the 21st century, where technological advances and consumer engagement are now the most prominent factors in the business sector (Smart Insights Marketing Intelligence, 2007), Vow Packaging Partners have made significant progress in supporting companies as they update and adapt their models.

Our sharp focus on eradicating food waste, through ongoing nanotechnology R&D, is something we hold as the highest priority, and continue to, even as we approach a new phenomenon – the apparent ‘war on plastics’.

[The global volume of edible food wastage annually is 1.3 Billion Tonnes (United Nations, 2018). Total global plastic production was approximately 400 Million Tonnes in 2016, and within this study the researchers discovered that 91% of plastics that have ever been produced were not recycled (University of Georgia, 2017).]
Our position, based on the known facts, acts as the following:

Reduction of food waste is, and will remain, our number 1 priority
The amount of plastic waste – and all waste – is unacceptable, but to target the plastics industry is misguided. We agree and wish to help develop/find non-plastic solutions which offer the same product protection as traditional plastic packaging.

We believe that the 62% of English people who admit to dropping litter in the street (Keep Britain Tidy, 2013) should change their behaviour and use the relevant refuse solution for the product. In addition, we believe that following clear local authority guidelines for recycling bin, green waste bin, composting and general waste bins should be mandatory. With a change in behaviour, it will instill the right mentality to take further steps.

We believe that the plastics industry can meet stricter environmental requirements, but the impact of this economically could be damaging. As with everything, there is a price to pay for change. As an example, 1 Tonne of polyethylene currently costs approximately £1250, and 1 Tonne of biodegradable alternative costs £6750. Herein lies an issue. The increase in price of packaging plus the potential post-Brexit rises in food costs (and we have already seen rises), could marginalise low-income families and as an extreme could contribute to poverty, which is on the rise in the UK (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2017).

We believe, in light of the above, that there should be governmental incentives for brands, food companies and packaging converters to utilise eco and bio materials, which inevitably cost more than their traditional counterparts. Significant grants should be offered to support this migration as it won’t just be the material that will change, but the machinery that processes the material, of which huge investment has been made.

We believe that any movement toward a plastic-free economy faces huge challenges. Certain plastic structures have specific properties for retort processing, pasteurisation, pascalisation, anti-mist, anti-bacterial and many more. Replicating these properties on other materials is currently a struggle.
Ultimately, we want to promote more informed consultations on how the packaging industry can strategically start to work towards these new, eco-friendly, requirements.

A step-by-step process, rather than a dangerous ‘race to the top’ is needed for maximum success, which reduces the effect on the economy as a whole, which needs stability. We also require the UK Government to offer more support for the companies that build the food and retail economy during this transition, and not simply penalise the plastics industry.

– Matt Baldock, MD, Vow Packaging Partners Ltd.

This statement is part of a lengthier paper, written by MD Matt Baldock, to help inform brands and the general public about the current situation. It is far more complex than given credit for, but it also brings opportunity for positive change, if addressed correctly.