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Government to review the use and impact of single-use plastics and packaging waste

Summary:

The Government wants to make big changes to consumer behaviour to reduce the impact of single use plastics, increase recycling of reusable materials and that the packaging industry will have to pay for this. It is likely that the cost of ‘packaging compliance’ will increase by a factor of five to ten times its current level over the next two to five years to meet changes in both British Governmental policy and new EU directives.


On Tuesday 13th March, in his Spring Statement, Philip Hammond announced that the British Government will consult on how the tax system can be used to change consumers’ behaviour and the use of plastic. This follows a lot of press coverage of European proposals for a ‘Circular Economy’, single-use plastics, coffee cup tax and plastics finding their way into water-courses and oceans. The UK currently holds the world record for a water-course with micro-plastics contamination.

The Secretary of State has asked WRAP (a resource efficiency charity), INCPEN (voice of the packaging supply chain) and the ACP (Advisory Committee on Packaging) to engage with stakeholders to identify options to improve the UK’s environmental performance. This is being done via a set of workshops that with trade and industry groups covering the whole supply chain.

In the UK, our producer responsibility legislation for packaging waste was designed to increase recycling of packaging in line with EU targets with the lowest nett cost to business and has done this very well over the last 20 years. The UK will have to comply with the EU’s new Circular Economy Package that comes into force before we leave the EU and during the transition that will follow. One of its principles is that producers (businesses using packaging) will have to subsidise not only the recycling of packaging waste as they currently do, but also its collection and sorting.

In other European countries which have already taken this approach their cost of compliance is typically £100/t, compared to the UK’s £20/t to subsidise recycling only. We expect to see these costs passed onto businesses handling packaging in the UK in the next 2-5 years.

There is no suggestion that the UK will go as far as France who are to ban all single-use plastics from 2020, unless they are made from compostable bio-sourced materials. Current thinking on a paper published in March 2018 suggested that the Government wants to give Industry time to develop innovative solutions before they consider a direct charge on coffee cups and plastic bottles.

The review looks at six main principles:

Everyone playing their part.

  • Currently, packaging regs apply only to businesses that turn over more than £2m and handle over 50t of packaging. This will be questioned, although it is recognised that widening the net to include a lot of smaller businesses would not catch much extra packaging. It recognises that a lot of on-line sellers are excluded from the regulations because they fall below the threshold. It also recognised that the current regulators do not effectively police free-riders and this should be addressed with more vigour than chasing smaller businesses.

The system should reward recyclability

  • It is clear that packaging is important to industry and in particular the food industry where some ‘difficult to recycle’ packaging may offer almost infinite shelf life, so we must accept that difficult to recycle plastics have their place in society.
  • Our current system of PRNs does not distinguish between single material packaging that is easy to recycle and complex multi material packaging that can not be recycled.
  • It is not clear how this proposal could be implemented but it was suggested that any material that is not readily recyclable in the UK could be subject to an additional per tonne levy for ‘difficult to recycle’ materials. This could fund innovation in recycling or new recycling facilities as appropriate.
  • Deposit return systems have been shown to improve return rates (and therefore recycling rates) and should not be ignored, although there are none currently running across the UK.

The system should reward recycled content

  • When a business buys packaging with recycled content they are supporting the use of recyclates, helping to reduce the amount of waste material that is not recycled. They are also stimulating demand for recyclate materials thereby reducing the cost of PRNs (that subsidise the cost of recycling).
  • Creating demand for recycled content will stimulate demand for recyclate and help to make the system more effective. Our current PRN system rewards demand for recycled content by reducing the cost of PRNs when more material is being recycled.
  • It would be nice if the recycled content of packaging were made VAT free (in line with having zero VAT on second hand goods) but we do not expect the Government to want to do this.

Local Authorities and businesses should work towards a standard base for recycling systems

  • A common baseline for material recycled, where all authorities recycle a minimum number of material streams separately, would make nationwide education campaigns much more effective – all businesses, households and street bins having the same number of divisions for different recyclates.
  • The On Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) is a scheme that indicates how likely it is that packaging is recycled in any given area. As there are over 300 local authority recycling groups in the UK, there are nearly as many different sets of arrangements. As much as the labels are a good idea, until we have the same recycling arrangements across the UK, the label will continue to be ineffective.

The proceeds of a new Producer Responsibility fund should be distributed by an independent cross sectoral body.

In our discussions we identified that in addition to the PRN, that subsidises the cost of recycling, we would need:

  • a similar market-driven mechanism for collecting and sorting waste packaging (perhaps a CSN – Collection and Sort Note) that subsidises the cost of collection and sorting of waste packaging,
  • a communication fund to promote recycling and
  • a fund to promote recycling of the difficult to recycle materials mentioned above.

These latter two funds would need to be managed by an independent body made up of stakeholders from all affected sectors.

All recyclers of waste packaging should be required to be part of the system in order to capture more accurate data about recycling. Exporters of packaging materials should not be able to enjoy the advantages they now have over UK recyclers in the current system

  • It is agreed that the current inequalities are created because the regulations are not enforced as rigorously on exporters as UK recyclers.
  • There is resentment from some producers that when the price of a PRN increases, the extra revenue is not directed towards increasing capacity directly, it is an inducement for recyclers to recycle more and for additional recyclers to join in with the system. (But I will restate that it is this flaw that has helped give the UK the cheapest cost of compliance in Europe.)
  • It is possible that there could be a limit on PRN prices so that recyclers cannot exploit the market when there is a shortage of supply. If the price were to hit the limit, producers (and their schemes) could contribute to a capacity building fund rather than paying too much for a PRN. This has been seen to be effective for waste electricals in the UK.
  • There is general agreement that we should endeavour to promote a better standard of collection and sorting in the UK as well as encouraging recycling in the UK.

Please be aware that this summary reflects my personal impressions of the review organised for Packaging Compliance Schemes, our current research and that the Government may choose to follow up on none, some or all of these themes.

JM 16/3/18

Investors in the Environment’s Becky Taylor is recognised for her contribution to sustainability at the inaugural Inspiring Women Changemakers ‘Igniting Inspiration’ Awards.

Investors in the Environment’s Becky Taylor is recognised for her contribution to sustainability at the inaugural Inspiring Women Changemakers ‘Igniting Inspiration’ Awards.

At the Inspiring Women Changemakers ‘Igniting Inspiration’ Awards in Bradford last week, Becky Taylor, who runs ‘Investors in the Environment’ in Yorkshire & the Humber, was presented with an Award for the Sustainability Savvy Organisation. The judges noted Becky's passion for sustainability and her ability to make a meaningful impact through her work. She was nominated for the award by iiE member Michelle Marks of Coral Mountain.

In September 2016, after over 20 years’ experience in industry, Becky gave up a full-time career to take over and develop the Yorkshire & Humber region of Investors in the Environment, alongside John Mooney from Pennine-Pack, the Packaging compliance organisation based in Hebden Bridge. Both organisations are part of the Green Business Network.

Investors in the Environment (iiE) is an established, national environmental accreditation and membership scheme designed to help small and medium-sized businesses save money, reduce their environmental impact and be formally recognised for their green achievements. “It’s all about ‘doing’ the right thing; taking action to achieve environmental goals, and receiving recognition and support” said Becky, “in the 12 months since we’ve been running the scheme, active membership has increased by over 50% mainly due to us having a personal approach and taking time to get to know our members’ businesses and how we can best help”

Investors in the Environment works with over thirty businesses in the Yorkshire & Humber region with a plan to continue to grow and develop the network. It encourages developing environmental initiatives and improving resource efficiency whilst helping to save money. The programme organises a series of fun and varied events which are free for members and include site tours, members coaching and networking events and our very special annual Awards Ceremony.

Investors in the Environment (iiE) is an established, environmental accreditation and membership scheme. The scheme is designed to help businesses of all sizes to save money, reduce their impact on the environment and get formally recognised for their green credentials. Your business will implement a simple Environmental Management System (EMS) to get accredited. www.iie.uk.com

Inspiring Women Changemakers is a dynamic movement of women leading transformational change – in work, in society, and in the world. www.inspiringwomenchangemakers.co.uk

Inspiring Women

Pennine-Pack Win Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice

Pennine-Pack were presented with a Green Apple Award in recognition of their Environmental Best Practice earlier today at the Houses of Parliament in London. The Yorkshire based micro-business helps companies to comply with packaging regulations* whilst actively supporting the UK recycling industry.

In 2010, Pennine-Pack committed to encouraging their customers to take a more holistic approach to recycling at a time when increasing amounts of waste were being shipped overseas for recycling. Accordingly, customers were invited to sign up to Pennine-Pack’s Ethical Compliance scheme which is committed to buying all its recycling certificates from UK recyclers. The industry ‘norm’ is to ship packaging waste to China where it is sorted and recycled in factories where employees are often only earning a basic minimum wage of the equivalent of £7.50 per day! Additionally, the 18,000km of transportation needed to ship the waste from the UK to China, also leads to an increased carbon footprint of almost 300kg CO2e of emissions per tonne.

John Mooney, Director commented “We decided to see if this commitment would help to promote UK recyclers, reduce the impact of our operations and encourage our customers to think about their environmental impact in a more holistic manner.” He continued, “We’ve increased our overall use of UK recycling certificates purchased, and are now buying almost three times as many as we were in 2010. During the first part of 2017, customers who have asked us to buy their recycling certificates from UK recyclers, now represent about 25% of our turnover”

Pennine-Pack works with businesses across many different sectors helping them to work beyond legal compliance, reduce their carbon impact for waste and recycling, and continues to be committed to increasing the proportion of their own business which supports the UK recycling industry. Commenting on the award, John said “we’re thrilled to be recognized in an area where small businesses can often be overlooked. Collectively SME’s can make a huge difference to our economy and supporting UK business is essential for the future”

About Pennine Pack

Pennine Pack has been operating packaging compliance schemes since 1997. As part of its portfolio under TheGBN.co.uk brand, it also operates an environmental consultancy and the environmental accreditation scheme “Investors in the Environment” in Yorkshire & the Humber.

One of the three packaging compliance schemes offered by Pennine- Pack, is ‘Ethical Compliance’ which is committed to providing more responsible packaging compliance to its members by sourcing all PRNs (Recycling certificates, or “packaging recovery notes”) from UK recyclers. This promotes UK recycling and ensures that those employed in the industry, enjoy satisfactory standards of employment. It also minimises the carbon footprint of the recycled waste as it doesn’t need to be transported long distances to be recycled. This initiative was recognised in 2016 when Pennine Pack were runners up in the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards behind SAB Miller (multinational brewer) and ahead of IKEA (Swedish furniture company) in the Supply Chain category.

*The Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 2007 (as amended), commonly known as ‘the packaging regs’ apply to all businesses that turn over more than £2million and handle over 50 tonnes of obligated packaging.

For more information, please contact the office on 01422 417 371 or visit our websites:

www.pennine-pack.co.uk
www.ethicalcompliance.co.uk
www.TheGBN.co.uk

The Green Apple Environment Awards were established in 1994 as an annual campaign to recognise, reward and promote environmental best practice around the world. It was one of the first to be accredited by the RSA as an official feeder into the European Business Awards for the Environment, and is still one of only a handful of accredited campaigns.

http://thegreenorganisation.info

Investors in the Environment (iiE) is an established, environmental accreditation and membership scheme. The scheme is designed to help businesses of all sizes to save money, reduce their impact on the environment and get formally recognised for their green credentials. Your business will implement a simple Environmental Management System (EMS) to get accredited. www.iie.uk.com

Here are my last thoughts for Zero Waste Week

Here are my last thoughts for Zero Waste Week, this time focussing on energy savings that you can look at.

Measure it!

  • Check your energy meters regularly and look for unusual patterns of energy use.
  • Checking energy use overnight or at weekends when a building is supposed to be empty tells you how big your base load is. Check to see what actually runs 24/7.
  • If you don’t know how much energy your equipment uses, how will you know how much energy it saves if you turn it off / wastes if you leave it on?

Turn it off!

  • It is possible to set your computers, printers and other digital devices to go into ‘sleep’ mode or shut down if they are not in use. Restarting might not take as long as you think.
  • Set all your IT equipment to shut down 30 minutes after the working day ends so that nothing can be left on overnight.
  • Turning it off at the plug (or physically unplugging it) is better than on the device because the switches on some devices are after the transformer.

Lighting

  • Advances with LED technology mean that it might be cost effective to replace lighting installed as recently as 5 years ago.
  • Modern LED lighting can be connected to light and motion detectors so that your lights can fade when the sun comes out / become brighter if it is cloudy and also check to see if there anyone there.
  • Check that the lights are off when you leave at night. If you can remember to pick up your phone or to lock a door, you can learn to turn off the lights too.

If you need a hand, give us a shout! Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Increase in carton recycling boosted by new facility in West Yorkshire

It is now ten years since the ‘Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment’ (ACE) UK launched its first beverage carton recycling initiative. Ten years later and they have reported that the number of local authorities collecting cartons for recycling from the kerbside has hit 66% compared to only 57% in 2013/14. It is not clear what proportion of cartons are actually recycled

Many of the cartons collected are recycled in West Yorkshire by Sonoco Alcore who opened their carton recycling facility in 2013 with a capacity to process 25,000t of cartons, that’s around 40% of the paper based food and drinks cartons manufactured in the UK.

Cartons

Zero Waste Shop

And at the other end of the scale, we have the Zero Waste Shop in Totnes. Nicola and Richard became disillusioned with City Life in an apartment with no recycling facilities. They started to wage a war on packaging and to cut out a few steps, they now run an organic wholefood shop in Totnes where everything sold is sold without packaging.

Zero Waste Shopping

So how do you run a shop with no packaging? – Its easy. You bring your own containers, (1) weigh the container, (2) fill the container with the product of your choice, (3) re-weigh the container, (4) label your purchase, (5) pay!. And no waste packaging.

Any container

Conveniently, they wrote a short article with 31 suggestions to reduce plastic waste. It felt a little awkward the first time I turned up to order take away food with my own containers, but as soon as the café worked out that he was not paying for a throw away take-away box, he was on board and happy to join in!

Click here to read the list of suggestions.

Waging war on plastic bottles

Continuing our Zero Waste Week campaign, the Scottish government is proposing to introduce a deposit scheme for bottles and cans. We think this is a great idea but not very practical and without financial merit as we stand today.

Lets start with the problem:

  • In the UK a typical household uses around 480 plastic bottles a year but only recycles just over half of them. Greenpeace claim that most soft drinks manufacturers sell in single use bottles using over 2 million tonnes of plastic and on a global scale, only 6.6% are recycled.
  • Some of those bottles will have travelled a considerable distance for you to drink your favourite brand, so you might think twice before asking for a French or Italian brand.
  • AG Barr, makers of IrnBru shut down their 30p deposit for glass bottles in August 2015 after more than 100 years of operation, showing that it is not worth the effort in simple financial terms.
  • “Aha, but…” I can hear you saying. There are savings of around £5million to be made in not having to pick up the litter. AG Barr estimate the cost of collections to be around £150m per year, dwarfing the £5m savings, not to mention the scope for English containers to be shipped in bulk to Scotland to be recycled. A lorry load of crushed cans would be worth £32,000.

There are more arguments on both sides but lets look at other solutions. In April, scientists announced an ‘edible’ water bottle made from seaweed. Its not on the market yet but makers claim that they can create single use ‘orbs’ that can hold up to one litre of water.

We think that reusable bottles is the way to go and last week we spotted these memobottles might just be the thing we need as they are slimline and can easily fit into most bags. You can buy them on kickstarter for over £20, or shop around a little and get one for less than a five, or if you are a bit more careful with your money, just get a bottle of water from Lidl for 20p and reuse it for six months.

The really cool thing about reusable bottles is that you can reuse them over and over. Did you know that all licensed premises are obliged to provide drinking water free of charge to their customers, so anywhere that sells alcohol could be a top-up stop to refill your water bottle.

Used drinks containers don’t have to be recycled. They can be reused as we can see here where refugees have filled bottles with sand to build themselves shelters.

Recycled bottle shelter

£10m invested in North Yorkshire to improve recycling and reduce waste going to Landfill.

Yorwaste have invested something like £10 million this year to increase their capacity. Most recently, they have opened a £3million waste transfer station to handle 75,000t of waste per year (about 300t per day) to service households across York and North Yorkshire. The Harewood Whin site will sort and bulk up waste before sending it to the Allerton Waste Recovery Park to generate energy from the residual waste. The Allerton Waste Recovery Park will generate enough energy to power 40,000 homes.

Packaging Regulations changes expected by the end of 2017

We are awaiting amendments to both GB & NI regulations to bring them into line with announcements made in the Spring Budget in April. The changes are expected to realign recycling targets up to 2020.

Some of the targets might stretch capacities in the UK and there are external factors, particularly in China, that make us anxious about PRN prices for metals, plastic and wood for both short term and longer term, but we don’t want to cry wolf in case we are wrong. If you need to budget for 2018, please let us know and we can have a chat about whether this uncertainty could affect your business.

Please click here for our summary

Pennine-Pack Win Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice.

Pennine-Pack Ltd, operators of three packaging compliance schemes and the environmental accreditation scheme ‘Investors in the Environment’ and environmental consultancy TheGBN.co.uk , have won a Green Apple for Environmental Best Practice 2017.

In 2012, Pennine-Pack were looking at their carbon footprint and realized that although their scope 1 & 2 emissions were relatively modest, about 5t CO2e, one of our scope 3 emissions associated with the recycling certificates for waste shipped to China was three orders of magnitude worse, about 5,000t.

To reduce this relatively large impact, we resolved to:

  1. Increase the proportion of British recycling that we supported
  2. Promote British recycling with our customers.

In simple terms, when we bought recycling certificates from businesses in China the carbon footprint of the material being recycled was increased by about 300kg CO2e of emissions per tonne of waste recycled because it is shipped an extra 18,000km to China, compared to recycling within the UK.

We decided to see if this commitment would give us a competitive edge, promote British recyclers, reduce the impact of our operations and encourage our customers to think about their environmental impact in a more holistic manner.

Since 2010, we have increased our use of British recyclers from 35.2% to 51.7% of certificates purchased, which sounded less than impressive until we realized that in real numbers, we were buying almost three times as many British certificates as we had been six years earlier.

We developed Ethical Compliance to promote British recycling and highlight the benefits mentioned above. In 2017, the new brand that we developed as supporting British recyclers now represents about 25% of our turnover.

In 2016, We were runners-up in the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards behind SAB Miller (multinational brewer) and ahead of IKEA (Swedish furniture company).

Commenting on the award, Director John Mooney said, “It is great for a small company like ours to be judged against all comers and be recognized. Small businesses need to be responsive to the changing world and that’s what we are doing! We look forward to going to the Houses of Parliament in London to collect the award in November.”

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