The surprising impact of Blue Planet II on your business – your briefing - Ben Frost
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The surprising impact of Blue Planet II on your business – your briefing

The surprising impact of Blue Planet II on your business – your briefing

Michael Gove brought plastic overuse and waste to the front of the agenda by the surprise announcement from DEFRA on managing plastic waste in the food industry. Although Mr Gove was not alone in his reaction to the plastic in oceans shown on Blue Planet II, his speed of action has unsettled the industry. Our recent research with retailers, packers, waste collectors and recyclers to understand their perspectives gives us insight into the full scope of the issue and how it will potentially impact your company.
6 key impacts

1. The public are concerned about the use of plastic in retail – the Government want to harness this consumer disquiet to force real change. In the eyes of the shopper, the villain of the piece are retailers with their over-reliance on plastic packaging.
2. By contrast, the consensus across industries affected, is a collective need for the Government to intervene to promote the collection and segregation of plastic packaging. The industries are collaborating to identify where they believe the Government can assist to increase plastic recycling. Pulling together the piecemeal and fragmented landscape on recycling, via groups such as WRAP, is a key lever in the solution.
3. Despite public perception, supermarkets have for many years been pursuing the reduction of packaging (weight v weight); reducing the type of plastic polymer used and increasing the use of recycled plastics. Some supermarkets have remained silent this month; they feel their packaging strategies are already succeeding and until the Government sets out new plans, a reactionary change of direction could mis-fire.
4. Packaging manufacturers would like to offer alternatives to virgin polymers but are restricted by the availability of clean recycled feedstock or biodegradable polymers. Recycled plastic such as rPET or rHDPE require high quality clean feedstock which is difficult to source in the UK. Until the supply-chain is reliable, packaging manufactures are either not committing to further supply or reducing the amount of recycled content to a viable level.
5. The waste recycling industry will have to invest in recycling of plastics. For the past 10 years the waste industry has focused on avoiding landfill with incineration/energy recovery being the technology of choice. A greater emphasis on investments in recycling is likely to be required to win the next round of council contracts. DEFRA have already set out their intention to move away from weight as the primary metric for measuring recycling success by local councils. The over-simplification has led to a greater emphasis on glass and metal – heavier items which count more than plastic for achieving targets.
6. The consumer still wants convenience and would prefer recycled packaging over packaging-free aisles. The packaging-free aisle will be a symbolic gesture, like the plastic carrier bag tax, in terms of actual quantity of packaging reduction; however, its greater impact will be to raise consumer awareness.

Our snapshot research shows that the picture is multi-dimensional and can’t be solved by pulling a single lever. At Ben Frost Procurement, we bring a range of experience, from contracting with waste collectors to offering sustainable packaging advice. To discuss how we can help, give me a call.

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