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The beginning of the end for microplastics?
UK startup develops recyclable plastic material that biodegrades without producing microplastics
Microplastics could become a thing of the past thanks to a new technology from a British startup.
In a ground-breaking innovation, Polymateria has created a biodegradable plastic material that is also recyclable - two packaging properties that have often been deemed incompatible.
The plastic is designed to be recycled as a matter of priority but, thanks to Polymateria's time-controlled biotransformation technology, any items that escape refuse streams can return to nature without causing any harm, leaving behind no microplastics.
The claims have been independently verified by the British Standards Institution (BSI), through the development of a new British standard for biodegradable plastic.
This new BSI PAS 9017 standard is the first of its kind for measuring the biodegradability of polyolefins, the group of plastics that includes polyethylene and polypropylene - the most littered forms of plastic packaging.
"The reason plastic is so persistent in nature is because of the hard crystal structure," Polymateria's CEO Niall Dunne told Forbes magazine recently.
"Our breakthrough moment was when we first realised how to destroy the crystal structure - that’s the key to avoiding creating microplastics - and transform it into something that behaves like a grease or a wax."
This 'biotransformation' to a wax-like substance - which can be fully digested by microbes like natural bacteria and fungi - is key to Polymateria's breakthrough technology.
Their biotransformation additive is compatible with the normal plastic conversion process. It is formulated as a bespoke masterbatch, which is tailored to the polymer resin’s footprint, application profile and required use life.
Polythene-based products containing the technology break down in around 226 days, whilst polypropylene products break down in around 336 days, without creating any microplastics.
The development signals a positive change for the packaging industry, but the scale of the challenge is huge.
Tackling plastic waste
Global plastic waste production has doubled since the turn of the century, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with over 350 million metric tons of plastic waste produced every year.
Just 9% of this waste is successfully recycled globally, with the bulk ending up in landfill or being incinerated, but 22% evades waste management systems.
The OECD also reported that 40% of plastic waste comes from packaging with a lifetime of less than five years, so any developments to tackle this growing problem must be welcomed.
On the market
The good news is that this packaging development isn't just something in the pipeline. Polymateria's technology is already being adopted by several international brands, with products available to buy around the world.
In the UK, leading packaging manufacturer Polybags now produces a wide range of biodegradable bags made with Polymateria's biotransformation technology.
Polybags' market-leading eco packaging range now features biodegradable packing bags, biodegradable mailing bags, biodegradable carrier bags and biodegradable safety bags all made with the new additive.
Polybags has also setup a helpful biotransformation packaging information page, which includes a guide to how to dispose of the packaging after use, along with a fun eco-comparison tool that rates various forms of eco-packaging - including compostable and recycled packaging - across a variety of eco-factors.
Image courtesy of Polymateria.
Tesco urges suppliers to speed up plastic-free produce
Tesco customers can expect more loose fruit and vegetables on the shelves, as the supermarket urges suppliers to accelerate the removal of plastic from their products.
The UK's largest supermarket aims to remove all plastic wrapping from five billion products by 2025.
Now the retail giant is asking suppliers to go further and faster in removing plastic where alternatives are possible.
As part of their 4Rs packaging strategy - Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Tesco wants to increase sales of loose or unpackaged products, such as fruit and vegetables.
They also aim to provide more products in reusable or refillable packaging - allowing consumers to bring their own containers into stores - whilst seeking a greater use of concentrates, which use less packaging.
The supermarket brought together suppliers at a sustainability event to discuss new ways to eliminate more plastic waste, as part of a drive to remove plastic packaging from five billion own brand and branded products by 2025.
Tesco established its 4Rs strategy in 2019 and claims to have since improved the packaging for more than 1,500 different products, removing 1.6 billion pieces of unnecessary plastic - including multipacks, additional lids, films, and bags - from its stores in the process.
Further detail on Tesco's packaging strategy will be published later this summer but, with the 2025 deadline on the horizon, the supermarket admits that working closely with suppliers is key if they are to meet their target.
"We’ve already made progress to minimise the environmental impact of our packaging, but we know there is more we can do with suppliers on the issue of plastic waste," said Sarah Bradbury, Tesco’s Group Quality Director.
"We’re bringing suppliers together to work solutions because we are determined to go further and accelerate our progress, with a focus on the areas of greatest impact.
"We’re really grateful for the support and partnership of our suppliers on this important agenda, and we look forward to sharing more detail on our packaging strategy in the months ahead."
Image courtesy of Tesco.
Paper price increases continue to impact packaging industry
The packaging industry is set for a continued squeeze on costs, as paper prices continue to rise across Europe.
It has been a turbulent couple of years for businesses across the globe since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic - and the packaging industry is no exception.
The economic shock of the pandemic has been followed by huge increases in fuel and energy costs and supply chain pressures - both exacerbated by the war in Ukraine - which have led to increased upwards pressure on paper prices.
Paper mill closures and a lack of production capacity has also been a factor affecting the industry in a number of countries - most notably the United States - whilst strikes at Finnish paper mills have impacted production capacity in Europe.
Numerous paper companies have announced price rises in recent weeks.
In April, Swedish producer SCA increased prices for white and brown kraftliner in Europe by €100 per tonne, whilst Italian producer Burgo put 15% on prices across all graphic paper grades.
At the same time, Portuguese paper producer The Navigator Company announced an energy surcharge of €105 per tonne on uncoated woodfree and packaging products in Europe, the Middle East and Africa - subject to change in line with energy prices - whilst also implementing a €120 per tonne surcharge in the United States.
Mikael Frölander, Vice President of Marketing and Sales at SCA Containerboard, attributed the company's price rises to supply pressures in market where demand remained high.
"We see good demand in the market for kraftliner while supply is limited," said Frölander.
"Increased costs are evident and must be managed in order to safeguard stable supply of sustainable kraftliner."
Photo by Marcell Viragh on Unsplash.
New separation technology signals plastic recycling breakthrough
The recycling industry could be in for a major boost thanks to the development of new plastic-separation technology at a Danish university.
Researchers at Aarhus University have developed a new camera technology that is able to differentiate between 12 different types of plastics, including those most commonly used in households.
Plastics recycling is usually processed via density tests or mechanical sorting, which traditionally uses near-infrared technology (NIR) to distinguish between the various types of plastics recycled.
The resulting plastics usually offer a purity of between 75 and 95 percent - short of the 96 percent purity levels required by industry.
The new technology, which uses a camera and machine learning to analyse images of plastic waste, is able to distinguish between polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polystyrene (PS) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - which make up the majority of household plastic waste - along with seven other types of plastic.
The Danish study, published in the scientific journal Vibrational Spectroscopy, used unsupervised machine learning on short wave infrared hyperspectral data to build a model that classifies plastics.
This new technology can identify a greater range of plastic types than the NIR technology, whilst also classifying their chemical purity - a potential breakthrough for the plastics recycling industry.
Associate Professor Mogens Hinge, head of the Aarhus University research team, explained to Resource magazine how the technology works.
"Fundamentally, it is a camera that images a conveyer belt. The plastics are then transported past the camera. When the camera has taken the images, we employ unsupervised machine learning to analyse the images and detect and distinguish between the individual plastic types," he said.
"The camera is special, as it records images within the infrared area and with multiple channels. For reference, a mobile phone has three channels – red, blue, and green – making up an image. Our IR camera has 90 channels.
"I would like to note that we have intentionally only used industrial components – this includes all components and systems in our setup. This means that we have not used highly sensitive, dedicated, specialised and delicate research equipment for our work. This restriction is done to ensure the industrial relevance of our work."
The new technology is set to be installed in two plastic recycling companies, Plastix and Dansk Affaldsminimering, for testing.
According to Hinge, this testing will allow his team to "properly adjust and adapt the source code and machine learning training algorithms" to "maximise performance", but he believes that the system will be directly transferable to industries, where it could help to transform our ability to recycle.
"Aside from the camera, all you need is a stand to position it over a conveyer belt in the production line. Due to its ability to detect a range of plastic types, the technology enables the sorting of unwanted impurities or unwanted materials from the plastic waste stream," he added.
"This will deliver recycled plastic fractions with a higher purity, which then can be applied in more demanding products. Hence, enabling more recycling - and in some cases enabling recycling at all - of plastic waste. We have a special focus on the purification of household collected plastics and ghost nets from the fishing industry."
Photo by Hans Braxmeier on Pixabay.
Have yourself an eco-friendly Christmas - how to reduce your festive packaging waste
"It's a time for giving, a time for getting.
A time for forgiving, and for forgetting."
Christmas is a time for giving and receiving presents. It's a tradition that's been around since long before Cliff Richard wrote those immortal lines for his Christmas classic Mistletoe and Wine.
But Christmas presents mean packaging - lots of packaging - and one thing that has changed since Sir Cliff topped the Christmas charts in 1988 is our attitude to packaging - and packaging waste in particular - with demand for eco-friendly packaging on the rise.
Dreaming of a green Christmas?
Some recent surveys suggest that more people than ever will be trying to do their bit for the environment this Christmas:
- Over a third of people (37%) want to be more sustainable (Tesco & Oxford Martin School, Oct 2021)
- One in three people (31%) plan to buy pre-owned gifts this Christmas to be more eco-friendly (Oxfam, Dec 2021)
- Over half (56%) of 18-25-year-olds intend to be greener this Christmas, along with 27% of 45-54-year-olds and 25% of over-55s (Opinium, Aug 2021).
So the will is there. As people become more eco-conscious in their outlook, old behaviour patterns begin to change and we begin to make 'greener' decisions as a society.
Here at Packaging Knowledge we want to do our bit to help the cause, but before we give you some handy tips on how to reduce your packaging waste this Christmas, let's first remind ourselves of the scale of the problem.
Here are some of the most oft-quoted statistics on Christmas waste. Whilst some of these might not be bang up to date, they still give a decent picture of how much packaging waste there is at this time of year.
Christmas in the UK - packaging waste facts
- The amount of wrapping paper we throw away in the UK each year could reach to the moon - that's a staggering 239,000 miles-worth (Gov.uk & WRAP, 2013)
- Approx. 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away (not recycled) in the UK at Christmas (Wildlife & Countryside Link, 2017)
- More than 100 million bags of rubbish are sent to landfill each Christmas (Biffa)
- 4,500 tonnes of aluminium foil is used every Christmas to wrap turkeys, mince pies and other food (Let's Recycle, 2013)
- Over 21 million people in the UK receive Christmas gifts they do not want, worth a total of £5 billion (Finder, 2021)
- One in 16 unwanted gifts (6%) are thrown away (Finder, 2021)
So now we're all clear about the scale of the problem, let's turn our attention to what we can do to remedy it.
Here are a few suggestions on how to have yourselves a more eco-friendly Christmas and cut down on that packaging waste this festive season.
Festive packaging hacks - Top tips for a more eco-friendly Christmas
- Before you start wrapping this year's presents, dig out all of last year's leftover gift bags and wrapping paper and use these before buying new stuff
- If you're sending gifts in the post, use compostable or 100% recycled packaging - Polybags has a great range of eco-friendly mailing bags to choose from
- Wrapping presents in fabric or linen can provide an eye-catching and sustainable alternative to using paper - hold onto it and use it again next year (or for birthdays!)
- If you need to buy new wrapping paper, make sure it is recyclable and made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified paper
- It's always better to reuse than to recycle, so salvage whatever used wrapping paper you can and keep it in a safe place for next year
- For any wrapping paper that can't be reused, a handy way to check if it can be recycled is waste management company Biffa's 'scrunch test'. Simply screw up the paper and if it stays neatly scrunched then it can be recycled (after removing any tape, bows and tags, of course). If it unfolds, it can't be recycled. However...
- Any wrapping paper you can't recycle, keep it and shred it, then reuse it as protective packaging for future gifts
- Keep your 'green' hat on all year round - birthday wrapping paper can be saved and reused, or if you are ever sent a gift in a gift bag - Amazon's are a great example - then make sure to keep the gift bag, as these are perfect for reuse at Christmas
- If you're unsure about recycling, check your local recycling options, either via your local council or Recycle Now's handy recycling locator tool
Of course, the best way to cut down on packaging waste at Christmas is not to give any gifts at all. You could agree with family and friends that you have enough stuff, and perhaps decide to make a donation to a favourite charity instead.
It might be best to check with others first though - you don't want to be the one labelled Ebeneezer Scrooge this Christmas!
If you are giving presents, then we hope the advice above might help in some way and we can all start to do our bit.
It's clear we have work to do, but the surveys above reveal positive intentions and signs that we're going in the right direction.
So be sure to spread this positive message to family and friends this Christmas. We've even come up with a little festive rhyme to help you remember...
A Christmas poem to reducing packaging waste
Christmas is coming,
With gifts for kith and kin.
But please think of the packaging
And throw less in the bin.
Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.
German supermarkets to introduce eco-friendly silphie packaging
Supermarkets in Germany are leading the way with a new form of eco-friendly packaging.
Lidl and Kaufland will be rolling out cardboard packaging made from the silphie plant fibres for a variety of fruit and vegetables, starting with cress - itself available in Lidl stores in southern Germany since early November.
The innovative and sustainable packaging solution has been developed by STI Group in collaboration with PreZero, the environmental division of Schwarz Group.
The technical properties of the new material have been examined for the last 12 months, with extensive testing finding that it can be used in either cardboard or corrugated board format for making packaging and displays.
Jakob Rinninger, CEO of STI Group, said: "Through a development partnership with OutNature, our in-house materials lab has been exploring the technical properties of silphie material since late 2020.
"Pioneering tests have examined every facet of its production performance, from printability and varnishability to laminating and die-cutting. Silphie material has proven itself and can now be used in cardboard or corrugated board format for making packaging and displays."
Silphie packaging material is suitable for direct food contact and could be further enhanced with additional barriers to improve its resilience to water and fats.
It provides an eco-friendly take on supermarket packaging by using locally-grown silphie plant fibers, thereby greatly reducing reliance on traditional paper packaging materials.
Don't miss Santa's sleigh - your last posting dates for Christmas 2021
'Allow plenty of time for posting' says Royal Mail, as increased demand and Covid restrictions put strain on system
Christmas is just around the corner and people all over the UK are looking to send presents to loved ones all around the world.
It is always important to get those gifts and cards in the post in plenty of time for Santa's sleigh - otherwise known as the Royal Mail - to get them to the recipient in time for Christmas morning, but this year that rule is more important than ever.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck last year, global postal systems have been struggling to keep up with demand and, with a surge of deliveries expected in the run-up to Christmas, the Royal Mail are employing 23,000 temporary staff to keep up with Christmas demand.
Announcing their last Christmas posting dates, the Royal Mail advice to customers is:
"Allow plenty of time for posting. Please post items and gifts for Christmas early, particularly for international deliveries. Ongoing Covid restrictions, reduced air and freight capacity, high volumes and winter weather conditions are all impacting transportation and local delivery across the globe."
Royal Mail recommended last posting dates for Christmas 2021:
- Fri 17 December: Royal Mail Bulk Mail Economy
- Sat 18 December: 2nd Class, 2nd Class Signed For, Royal Mail 48
- Tue 21 December: 1st Class, 1st Class Signed For, Royal Mail 24, Royal Mail Tracked 48*
- Wed 22 December: Royal Mail Tracked 24*
- Thu 23 December: Special Delivery Guaranteed
* Online (click & drop) service only. Not available to purchase at Post Office branches.
- Wed 1 December: Caribbean
- Mon 6 December: Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Italy, Greece
- Wed 8 December: Africa, Asia, Far East, Middle East, Central America, South America
- Fri 10 December: Cyprus, Sweden, Malta
- Sat 11 December: Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia), Turkey
- Mon 13 December: United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Poland, Finland
- Thu 16 December: Western Europe (Spain, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Luxembourg, Iceland, Slovakia)
International HM Forces Airmail
- Mon 29 November: To Operational HM Forces
- Mon 6 December: To Static HM Forces
Royal Mail are taking on over 23,000 temporary staff to help them through the busy Christmas period.
This is a reduction on last year's record recruitment of 33,000 temporary staff, when Covid-19 lockdowns forced many Christmas shoppers online, causing a frenzy of festive online shopping.
Whilst more shops remain open this Christmas, more than half of UK shoppers have increased the amount of shopping they do online since the pandemic began, whilst over two-thirds (70%) say that buying online and on mobile phones are now their preferred shopping methods (Credit Karma survey, September 2021).
This means that online retailers can expect a busy few weeks ahead and will need to ensure their packaging supplies are well stocked in preparation for the festive rush.
The good news for any retailers in need of a last-minute Christmas packaging top-up is that the UK's number one manufacturer, Polybags, has a market-leading range of mailing bags available with fast and free delivery as standard, with next day, express and super-express options for those really in a hurry.
Polybags' mailing bag range is perfect for Christmas, with handy packs of 100%-recycled mailing bags (200 bags per pack) ideal for retailers in need of a quick top-up, whilst their smart blue mail order bags really look the part for Christmas deliveries - whether you choose the glossy best-seller range or the light-duty economy range.
But whether you are an online retailer or a Christmas shopper, don't forget to take note of these last posting dates and make sure you get your deliveries in the post early this Christmas. Nobody wants to miss Santa's sleigh now do they?
Note: The above timings are a guide only and are correct at the time of publication. Please check the Royal Mail website for the very latest service updates.
Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash.
Low prices the key factor in packaging choices - Asda survey
Lower prices are the key factor for consumers when it comes to shopping sustainably, research by Asda has found.
The UK's third biggest supermarket surveyed 3,000 customers to understand what lifestyle changes they were prepared to make when shopping to live more sustainably and reduce their carbon footprint.
They found that most consumers want to make sustainable shopping choices, but are often unable or unwilling to pay more for 'greener' alternatives.
More than half of respondents (55%) said they were prepared to make significant lifestyle changes to reduce their carbon footprint, but often did not, with price the single biggest obstacle to them adding sustainable alternatives to their shopping basket.
When the shoppers were asked what factors would help them shop more sustainably:
- 76% said lower prices
- 56% said greater choice
- 45% said logos telling them what is sustainable
Half of those surveyed (50%) said they would not be prepared to pay over the odds for more sustainable everyday items, such as milk and bread, underlining the importance of making sustainable options affordable.
Susan Thomas, Asda's senior director of commercial sustainability, said: "Our research shows that consumers from all backgrounds care about sustainability but many cannot afford to buy greener products when they shop.
"We believe that nobody should be priced out of making sustainable choices and our Greener at Asda Price promise aims to remove price as a barrier to purchase.
"The onus is on supermarkets, retailers and the industry as a whole to work collaboratively to make greener products more affordable. Consumers can also play their part too by embracing greener choices as investment will increase in line with shopper demand."
Image courtesy of Asda.
All set for Christmas? Check out these last-minute festive packaging offers!
Check out these Christmas packaging offerings from around the world
Christmas is fast approaching and with it, as ever, comes the busiest time of year for the retail sector.
The festive shopping season seems to get earlier each year but, with the covid-19 pandemic and supply chain issues still hanging around, people are shopping earlier than ever this year and most are still shopping online.
Covid-19 changed the retail landscape in 2020 and, whilst society has now reopened, shopping trends appear to have changed for good. A survey of 1,000 UK shoppers by marketing company Iterable found that 86% planned to complete the majority of their Christmas shopping online, with only 14% planning to do most of theirs in-store.
The pandemic has strengthened the e-commerce sector and, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, the coming weeks will be the busiest and most important of the year for retailers.
The countdown to Christmas is well underway and, as retailers everywhere attempt to tap into the festive goodwill, the hunt for quality seasonal packaging is on with shops and online retailers alike looking for bags, boxes and wrapping that might bring a little festive joy to their customers.
Now is not the time of year to be running out of crucial packaging supplies but, wherever you are in the world, there are still plenty of bargains to be had on Christmas gift boxes, gift bags, mailing bags, sweet bags and other festive packaging.
US retailers looking to brighten up their festive deliveries can pick up some fantastic Christmas mailing boxes from Papermart - who are celebrating 100 years in the packaging business - whilst sweet shops - or candy stores to the locals - can give their goodies a festive makeover with some seasonal deluxe candy bags from Box & Wrap.
Down under, Australian retailers looking to package up some festive treats have a fab choice of Christmas gift boxes from Gift Packaging & Accessories and Boxworks.
Just over the Tasman Sea, retailers in New Zealand can get a fantastic selection of Christmas packaging supplies from Pop Roc Parties, including gift bags, Santa gift gags, snowflake cello bags and window boxes.
Here in the UK, retailers can pick up some early festive packaging special offers at Polybags, including 20% off extra large carrier bags for those bulky toys and 15% off all coloured carrier bags, including Santa red and Elf green!
On top of that, they've got loads of Christmas shopping essentials, such as mailing bags & carrier bags, so make sure you're well stocked for the busiest time of the year.
Polybags offers fast and free UK delivery as standard, plus a variety of express delivery options, along with the UK's most extensive range of eco-friendly packaging, including compostable and 100%-recycled products. So whatever packaging you need - and whenever you need it - Polybags has got you covered this Christmas.
Product images courtesy of all of the above featured retailers.
Tesco puts customers in the Loop for reusable packaging scheme
Tesco has launched a new and ground-breaking initiative that enables customers to buy a range of everyday household items in reusable packaging.
Customers at 10 large Tesco stores in the east of England can purchase a wide range of food, drink, household and beauty products in reusable packaging that can be returned to store after use so that it can be cleaned, refilled and used again.
The UK's largest supermarket has teamed up with TerraCycle - a global reusable packaging platform - to run the Loop iniative, which it hopes could see hundreds of thousands of packaging items be reused rather than recycled.
The reusable range of 88 products includes some of the UK’s most popular brands - including Persil, Coca-Cola, Bisto, Tetley and BrewDog - and includes 35 Tesco own-brand essentials - such as pasta, rice, sugar and oil - with more products to be added to the range in the coming months.
Customers can pick up products from the Loop range in a dedicated section of the store. All products will come in pre-filled containers, so there is no need for customers to bring their own containers for refilling.
Tesco Group CEO Ken Murphy said: "We are determined to tackle plastic waste and one of the ways we can help is by improving reuse options available to customers. Bringing Loop to our stores is a significant milestone in this journey. With 88 everyday products available, we’re giving customers a wide range of options and we’ll learn as much as we can from this to inform our future packaging plans."
Prices for items in the Loop scheme are comparable to the original, although a refundable deposit - starting at 20p - will be paid on each product at the checkout. The deposit is refunded via an app when the packaging is returned to a collection point in the store.
Tesco believes that the impact of the Loop scheme could be "enormous". If customers in the 10 trial stores switched just three items from their weekly shop - tomato ketchup, cola and washing up liquid - from recyclable packaging to reusable Loop alternatives, the packaging for these products alone would be used and reused more than two and a half million times a year.
Those figures offer scope for change on a huge scale if the scheme catches on, with TerraCycle CEO and founder Tom Szaky hoping that a positive trial will lead to a wider rollout across the country.
"The consumer reaction to Loop in these first Tesco stores will prove pivotal in refining the Loop offering and ultimately we hope to scale reuse across more stores and the number of product lines available," said Szaky.
"Tesco is the perfect partner to bring Loop to retail in the UK due to its commitment to sustainability, in combating plastics waste and in its operational scale as the UK’s biggest grocery retailer."
Image courtesy of Tesco.
Royal Mail to appoint 23,000 workers to beat Christmas rush
Royal Mail has announced plans to hire over 23,000 temporary workers to help stay ahead of this year's Christmas rush.
Last year the parcel service had its busiest-ever three month period from October to December, delivering over 496 million packages as Covid-19 restrictions forced many shoppers online.
A record 33,000 temporary staff helped Royal Mail through the busy festive period but, with 10,000 of those staff subsequently being kept on into 2021, this year's festive recruitment drive is back in line with previous annual levels.
17,150 of the new jobs will be in mail centre sorting roles in England, with 1,800 similar positions to be filled in Scotland, 650 in Wales and 500 in Northern Ireland.
1,500 workers, including drivers, are required for Parcelforce Worldwide - Royal Mail's express parcel service - with a further 1,500 needed at their international parcel hub at Heathrow and 650 data inputting roles to be filled at sites across the UK.
Royal Mail's chief people officer Zareena Brown said: "Our seasonal workforce is incredibly important to our operation and we very much look forward to welcoming those who return year after year, as well as those who may be joining us for the first time."
After recent fuel and lorry driver shortages, coupled with predictions of empty shelves, Christmas shoppers may heed forewarnings and choose to order presents early this year and many will continue to shop online, despite a more 'normal' run-up to Christmas for the high street in prospect.
A changing landscape forces businesses to adapt and, with online sales up hugely last year, many retailers made the switch to online sales for the first time.
For those new to online retail, the choice of packaging for Christmas deliveries has never been greater and, with environmental issues front and centre thanks to the COP26 summit in Glasgow, those businesses looking to make sustainable choices are not short of options.
At the forefront of that market is leading UK manufacturer Polybags, who have once again expanded their range of eco-friendly mailing bags, which includes postage options made out of compostable, biodegradable, 100%-recycled and carbon-neutral materials, amongst others.
Whatever the consumer's choice of Christmas packaging is to be this year, Royal Mail can expect another very busy festive season ahead, whilst their chief people officer says that temporary staff joining this year's effort can expect a great experience that doesn't have to end once the festivities are over.
"Being part of delivering Christmas is a brilliant experience and one that we know offers lots of opportunities for employment and engagement in the communities we serve," she added.
Lidl launches two plastic-free initiatives
Lidl has announced two new initiatives to reduce plastic use and give customers more sustainable choices when shopping.
As part of its REset Plastic strategy, the supermarket has confirmed plans to replace all single use fruit and vegetable plastic bags in its UK stores with compostable bags, resulting in the removal of 275 tonnes of conventional single use plastic.
The new compostable bags are designed to offer a secondary use as a kitchen caddy liner for domestic food waste collections or home composting, providing them with a longer life-cycle.
The UK's seventh biggest supermarket has also launched a trial recycling scheme for plastic bags and wrapping across 12 of its stores in the West Midlands.
A similar scheme was launched by Co-Op earlier this year and will focus on 'soft plastics' such as carrier bags, bread bags and crisp packets, which more than 80% of UK local authorities do not collect from homes as part of their regular recycling collections.
Lidl will allow customers to return these items - from any brand or retailer - to easily accessible drop-off points at the front of the stores, before ensuring that all eligible soft plastics are recycled into products, such as refuse sacks and rigid construction products.
If the trial is successful, the German retailer - who are committed to making 100% of own brand packaging widely recyclable, reusable or refillable by 2025 - will roll the scheme out across all of its UK stores.
Lidl GB CEO Christian Härtnagel said: "We are committed to tackling excessive plastic waste and our compostable fruit and vegetable bags are the latest innovation to help limit the amount of plastic in our environment.
"As a bricks and mortar retailer, how we operate in our stores, and the packaging we use, plays such a vital role in helping customers to tackle their plastic consumption.
"By offering convenient solutions such as compostable bags and making it easier for customers to recycle more plastic through our in-store drop off points, we are hoping to give customers the opportunity to take small steps to reduce and recycle their plastic packaging."
The move was also welcomed by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the leading charity that promotes and encourages sustainable resource use, working with governments, businesses and citizens across six continents.
Helen Bird, Strategic Technical Manager at WRAP, said: "While we need to reduce single use packaging where possible, where it’s not, packaging must be recyclable and that’s what members of The UK Plastics Pact have pledged to do by 2025.
"It’s great news that Lidl is taking its responsibility seriously in this area and introducing collection points for bags and wrapping under The Pact. Our research showed that many citizens were willing to bring this material back to stores and we’re encouraged by the success of these collections to date."
Image courtesy of Lidl GB.
Are you ready for the new Plastic Packaging Tax?
Packaging with less than 30% recycled content taxable from April 2022
A new Plastic Packaging Tax is coming to the UK in 2022. But what is the new tax, to what packaging does it apply, who is responsible for paying and collecting it and how is the packaging industry preparing for it?
Packaging Knowledge tries to answer a few of those questions and more, to help you and your business prepare for the new tax.
What is the Plastic Packaging Tax?
From 1 April 2022, all plastic packaging manufactured in or imported into the UK will be subject to a Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT). The tax is designed to encourage the use of recycled plastic in packaging and reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce.
What packaging is subject to the Plastic Packaging Tax?
Any plastic packaging manufactured in or imported into the UK that contains less than 30% recycled plastic will be subject to the new PPT at a rate of £200 per metric tonne.
Plastic packaging is defined as packaging where plastic is the heaviest component. This includes 'green' plastics such as compostable or biodegradable plastics.
Who will pay the Plastic Packaging Tax?
Unlike the Carrier Bag Tax - which sees customers pay a 5p or 10p charge for each new carrier bag they use - the PPT is a tax on manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging.
Any business that manufactures or imports 10 tonnes of plastic packaging a year or more must register for the PPT, even if all of their packaging meets the 30% recycled-content threshold.
The packaging manufacturers (and importers) must account for and collect the PPT and pay it to HMRC.
How will packaging companies respond to the Plastic Packaging Tax?
This remains to be seen and is likely to vary across the industry.
Leading UK manufacturer Polybags has announced that it is "fully prepared" for the PPT, saying it will manage all PPT implications meaning it will be business as usual for its customers, for whom a helpful introduction to the Plastic Packaging Tax - including a detailed Q&A - aims to answer potential queries.
With a few months until the PPT is implemented, expect other packaging companies to provide more information on their own plans in the weeks and months ahead.
What impact will the Plastic Packaging Tax have on other businesses and consumers?
Whilst manufacturers may try to absorb some of the costs of the new PPT, inevitably some plastic products - particularly those still reliant on the use of non-recycled or virgin plastic, such as food-safe products - will increase in costs.
Increased packaging costs could lead to an increase in prices for products that use plastic packaging.
What is the Plastic Packaging Tax designed to achieve?
The government hopes that by encouraging the use of recycled plastic over new (virgin) plastic, it can stimulate an increase in recycling and waste collection, which it hopes in turn will help to divert plastic waste away from landfill.
So will we start to see plastic packaging containing more recycled content now?
That's the idea, but it's not quite so straightforward. Manufacturers will now have to weigh up the benefits of using recycled content versus the impact this has on the product they are selling, and its appeal to customers, who they still need to buy their products.
Introducing recycled plastic to a packaging product can alter the clarity, strength and texture of the packaging and even its smell, as recycled plastic is not as clear, transparent or strong as new (virgin) plastic. The larger the ratio of recycled to virgin plastic, the greater these alterations will be.
Is recycled plastic suitable for all packaging applications?
No. Using recycled plastic may not be an option for some manufacturers, such as those who make food packaging.
Food packaging is subject to strict food-safety regulations and using non-recycled (virgin) plastic ensures that these regulations can be met.
But introducing recycled plastic to a packaging product increases the possibility of contamination or unwanted substance residues being introduced, which may cause the packaging to fall short of meeting those regulations.
Heinz ditches plastic with switch to green sleeves
Some of the UK's favourite canned foods are set for an eco-friendly packaging makeover as Heinz ditches its plastic multipack wrapping in favour of recyclable cardboard.
The new and super-skinny Heinz Eco-Friendly Sleeve Multipack will replace the whole Heinz multipack canned range, including beans, soups and pasta varieties, in major retailers in the UK from September 2021.
The move follows a successful trial of the new sleeve on the Heinz to Home range and will see the new multipacks rolled out across all UK supermarkets, removing 550 tonnes of shrink-wrap packaging in the process.
"It is clear that convenience is important to shoppers and sustainable packaging has a significant impact, too, with 71% of UK shoppers more satisfied with a product if it is easily recycled or composted," said Jojo de Noronha, northern Europe president at Kraft Heinz.
"We feel this new recyclable and easy-to-carry paperboard sleeve ticks both of those boxes and is the perfect eco-friendly solution for our multipacks."
"Our packaging innovation team continues to work hard to develop further sustainable solutions across our business as we make a £25 million investment over three years to implement the infrastructure needed to ensure this roll-out is a success, which will be a win for the environment as well as shoppers across the UK."
Heinz's new recyclable sleeve is made with Westrock’s CarrierKote paperboard, which comes from sustainably managed forests and has been certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).
The product's innovative wrap design uses no glue and contains 10 percent less material than a traditional paperboard sleeve, whilst offering a reduced carbon footprint by producing 18.7% less CO₂ than the equivalent shrink-wrap design.
"We’re extremely proud to leverage the world’s most comprehensive portfolio of sustainable paper and packaging products to create customized, consumer-centric solutions,” said Patrick Kivits, president of consumer packaging at WestRock.
"Our team worked in close collaboration with Heinz stakeholders to deliver a solution that would enable Heinz to achieve its sustainability goals and resonate in the UK market, while managing the cost and risk of this transition."
Image courtesy of Heinz.
Consumer champion helps tackle compostable plastic conundrum
Compostable packaging is a very appealing concept to many consumers.
With more people than ever switched on to the challenges of waste management and 'single use' plastic pollution, plant-based packaging that breaks down and returns to the earth after use has never been more in demand.
But with so many different types of packaging on the market that claim to reduce environmental impact, consumers could be forgiven for not knowing which packaging products are genuinely eco-friendly and which aren't as 'green' as they seem.
Now the UK's consumer champion, Which?, has published a guide that should help clear up some of the confusion and point eco-conscious shoppers in the right direction.
Entitled 'Five things to know about biodegradable and compostable plastics', the helpful guide provides five key points on compostable plastics that are worth remembering. You can find the full guide on the Which? website, but here's a brief summary.
Biodegradable does not always mean compostable
Everything biodegrades eventually, but this process can take a long time. Just because a product is biodegradable it doesn't mean that it's compostable - so the 'c' word is the key term to look out for.
Compostable products must adhere to the UK and EU standard EN13432. This means that 90% of the product must disintegrate in industrial composting conditions within 12 weeks, before biodegrading into carbon dioxide (CO2) within six months, leaving behind no plastic or toxic residue.
A seedling logo is commonly used on products that meet the compostable standard, whilst some retailers have taken steps of their own to help customers find compostable products.
Among them is leading UK manufacturer Polybags, who indexed their online catalogue with a series of standards, including one for its compostable packaging range, with products - all of which adhere to EN13432 - denoted on the site by a compostable leaf icon.
Compostable does not always mean home-compostable
Compostable standard EN13432 applies specifically to packaging sent to an industrial composting facility, such as via food waste collections. Not all packaging that meets this criteria will be suitable for home composting - as composting conditions will vary greatly - so there is no guarantee that an item will break down in home composting and, if it does, this could take a long time.
Compostable caddy liners - or similar very thin bags made - are the exception. These may be marked with the 'OK Compost Home' certification from TUV Austria, which means they have been tested in conditions similar to home composting. Some packaging manufacturers won't have paid for this private testing but, in all likelihood, any caddy liner that meets industrial composting standard EN13432 is likely to also be suitable for home composting.
Do not put compostable plastic in your recycling bin
If you don't have access to an industrial waste facility - i.e. a food waste collection bin - your only option for compostable packaging is to put it in your general waste.
Compostable plastics aren't suitable for mixed recycling facilities as they can't be sorted from regular plastics and can clog up machinery.
Use compostable caddy liners in your food waste bin
This one will seem fairly obvious to many people - food waste heading for industrial composting should be collected in a compostable waste bag.
However, some councils do allow food waste to be collected in plastic bags and may even provide them but, even after the bags are removed before composting, they can lead to plastic residues being found in the compost.
What's more, some plants don't distinguish between regular plastic bags and compostable plastic bags, so both are removed before composting, which seems to defeat the object of using a compostable bag in the first place.
It is better to reuse than recycle
Whilst compostable plastics do have an important part to play in the future of waste management, the fact they are not recyclable means that they are effectively single-use, which its own impact on carbon emissions.
"It's far better to buy things with no packaging at all," said Beverley Simonson, senior advisor at ReLondon - an organisation aiming to transform London into a leading low-carbon circular economy.
"Buying fruit and vegetables loose, or signing up to a veg box, are great plastic-free options; and re-using and refilling your own boxes, bottles or bags are the next best options for replacing plastic packaging."
Which? is widely recognised as the UK’s consumer champion. The organisation describes itself as "not for profit and all for protecting consumers - a powerful force for good, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone."
Cadbury set to use recycled plastic in Dairy Milk packaging
One of Britain's best loved chocolate bars is making the switch towards recycled packaging.
Mondelēz International has announced that Cadbury Dairy Milk will be made with packaging containing up to 30% recycled plastic.
Cadbury, the UK’s biggest food brand, says the innovation will be rolled out on more than 28 million sharing bars in the UK and Ireland in 2022.
Mondelēz International has already begun using 75% recycled plastic (RPET) content in packaging for its Dairylea Lunchables and Snackers ranges in the UK, whilst it has plans to begin using rPET in its Philadelphia range from next year.
The company has committed to reduce its use of virgin plastic material in its packaging portfolio by 5% globally by 2025, whilst it is investing over £21 million a year in technology, resources and recycling infrastructure around the world.
With an acceleration in this investment anticipated over time, the manufacturing giant aims to have invested over £215m in helping to create a more sustainable future for plastics by 2025.
"This next step in our journey to reduce our use of virgin plastic in our iconic Cadbury range is a really important one, which I am very proud of," said Mondelēz International UK Managing Director Louise Stigant.
"We are committed to reducing waste and closing the loop on packaging – keeping valuable materials within the economy and out of the environment. Our increased use of recycled plastic will drive demand for this material and reduce our need to produce new, virgin plastic."
Mondelēz International this year helped set up the Flexible Plastics Fund - designed to drive up UK recycling rates of flexible plastic through front of store collections, with a long-term aim of including this material within household collections. It is also a member of the UK Plastics Pact and a signatory of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy Global Commitment.
"Action is urgently needed to address the complex challenges around plastic bags and wrapping, which represents nearly a quarter of all UK consumer plastic packaging," said Marcus Gover, CEO at the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which leads the UK Plastic Pact.
"Moves towards recycled content are important in reducing the demand on natural resources, and I am pleased Mondelez International will include recycled plastic from next year on this household brand as part of its work toward the UK Plastic Pact targets."