Cranswick; WPO & Axion Polymers get vocal about plastic recycling

‘No single organisation can drive change in plastic packaging’

By Jenny Eagle

- Last updated on GMT

Kotkamills’ Folding Boxboard. Photo: Kotkamills.
Kotkamills’ Folding Boxboard. Photo: Kotkamills.
Cranswick fresh food producers has partnered with Waitrose, Iceland and Surfers Against Sewage, to drive debate and influence change of the single use of plastic.

It will sponsor a panel event 'Breaking The Plastic Habit​', to coincide with World Environment Day, at 2.30pm on June 5, in London, to debunk the myths and call for action through collaboration. 

Circular Economy

Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used only once before they are thrown away or recycled. It includes plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda and water bottles and most food packaging. 

Worldwide only 10% of plastic items are recycled. The nature of petroleum based disposable plastic makes it difficult to recycle and there are a limited number of items that recycled plastic can be used for.

According to Jim Brisby, group commercial director, Cranswick, no single organisation can drive change and it has assembled, with Canary Wharf, a heavyweight of panellists from all key sectors; retailers, environmental groups, packaging suppliers and other manufacturers.

We need the circular economy to become a reality. It’s very well talking about ideas and solutions, but the time to act is now,​” he said.

'Breaking The Plastic Habit' panel event

Jim Brisby, group commercial director, Cranswick
Lugano Kapembwa, energy & environment lead, Canary Wharf Management
Fiona Ball, head, responsible business & Sky Ocean Rescue, Sky Group
Jim Nuttall, head, digital commerce, Pentatonic
Tor Harris, head, sustainability & responsible sourcing, Waitrose
Ian Schofield, own label & packaging manager, Iceland
Julian Green, head, corporate practice, Kantar Millward Brown
Hugo Tagholm, CEO, Surfers Against Sewage
Lubna Edwards, sustainability director, Klöckner Pentaplast

Cranswick itself launched its own initiative, Second Nature, earlier this year which includes being a friend of Champions 12.3, signing up to the Courtauld Commitment 2025, announcing a Plastic Pledge to reduce its plastic usage by 50% by 2025 and releasing a whitepaper on Radical Transparency in the food industry.

This month, the WPO (World Packaging Organisation) is releasing a Position Paper about Packaging in the Circular Economy, highlighting the issue of a circular economy and the role(s) of packaging within it. 

The document is based on recent data and research carried out by scientists and “think-tanks” around the world. The end of the paper deals with the current and envisaged role of WPO in a circular economy context. 

WPO believes the world must change. We must be determined and move quickly from a linear economy to a circular economy to maintain the world sustainable for the future human generations​,” said author, Antro Säilä, VP Sustainability, WPO Finland. 

WPO Position Paper 

Following on from the Ellen McArthur Foundation´s definition - design out waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use; regenerate natural systems the WPO Position Paper outlines the following: 

1. Packaging can contribute to reduce waste and thus making a circular economy more efficient (eg. by prolonging shelf life or protecting packaged goods). 

2. Packaging can be reused (eg. b2b transport packaging inside and/or between industries and trade or in deposit systems in b2c trade).

3. Packaging materials can be recycled.

4. High energy content packaging (e.g. fibre and plastic) can be used for energy generation when it can no longer be reused or recycled. 

However, according to Axion Polymers, in banning plastic drinking straws, coffee cups and other single-use plastic, the UK Government and NGOs are ignoring the bigger issue, which is the exportation of waste plastics recycler. 

The UK traditionally exports around 450,000 tonnes per annum of plastic packaging waste to Asia. China’s National Sword ban on imported plastic waste has resulted in hundreds of containers being shipped to other Asian countries, such as Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. 

82% of ocean plastic originates in Asia Pacific countries,” Keith Freegard, director Axion Polymers. “If we were worried about standards of residual waste disposal in China, then we should be even more concerned about waste treatment infrastructure in these less-developed countries. This, of course, begs the question ‘how much of the 450,000 tonne pa is actually unrecyclable?’​ 

Rather than wasting taxpayers’ money on a plastic straw consultation, what UK government should be doing is finding out exactly how much of the exported waste to all those countries is being turned into really high-grade plastic​.”

Exported plastic waste

Freegard suggests the authorities should follow the price of exported plastics to accurately measure the true levels of contaminants in waste plastics leaving the UK. 

He said some low-grade mixed plastics cost a ‘gate fee’ to export; yet will contain high percentages of waste in the bales. Many exporters are accessing ‘low-cost, poorly-regulated waste disposal routes’ in third-world countries and we need a thorough methodology to measure and quantify the split between ‘recyclable’ plastics and the tonnes of ‘unrecyclable’ waste in the containers leaving our shores. 

It’s no longer good enough to export it overseas, and hope for the best, we’ve got to be seen to be recycling as much as we can through well-regulated businesses operating under our own legislative waste structure​,” he added.

Kotkamills’ AEGLE consumer boards recently launched AEGLE ​Barrier Plus promoting the wider use of non-plastic packaging for greasy food, sandwiches, bakery products and frozen foods.

The barrier layer is a water-based polymer dispersion which enables easy recycling because no plastic needs to separated from the wood fibre.

Our plastic free packaging boards answer to a number of societal challenges, for example preserving the precious materials in circular economy and the prevention of added litter in the environment,​” said Markku Hämäläinen, CEO, Kotkamills.

He added the packaging industry is one of the key players in preventing litter ending up in the oceans and nature.

Traditionally, the packaging industry uses a plastic barrier layer on packaging board to stop grease and fluids from absorbing into the packaging material. Alternatively, organic fluorochemicals can be used as grease barriers but they might be harmful for the health. Degradation of plastic can take up to hundreds of years in natural conditions, which means they are a burden for the environment for a long time.

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