Further Packaging News

Looking for news with a more in-depth look at each packaging manufacturing sector? Check out our series of packaging articles.

Flat wine bottle company gets lockdown boost

Flat wine bottle

One of the UK's most innovative packaging designs of recent years has received an unexpected boost during the Coronavirus pandemic.

British start-up Garçon Wines created the world's first 'flat' wine bottle for the purpose of increasing sustainability but, with UK delivery services soaring during lockdown, the product's sleek design - which can fit through a letterbox in packaging - has seen it prove a winner with wine drinkers across the country.

The award-winning, climate-friendly product was designed to save energy whilst reducing carbon emissions and logistics costs, but now punters keen to maintain social distancing have taken the opportunity to get wine delivered without even having to see a delivery person.

"We invented a flat wine bottle that would fit through most UK letterboxes and was lightweight, strong and eco-friendly," Garçon Wines chief executive and co-founder Santiago Navarro told The Guardian.

"Today we have a very different situation, where letterbox wine is in higher demand than ever. An invention created for convenience and sustainability has turned into a product wanted during this pandemic for continuity and safety."

The lightweight, flat wine bottles, made entirely of 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are just 4cm deep, whilst standing only 2cm taller than a regular, round 75cl bottle.

Each bottle is approximately 87% lighter than an average glass wine bottle, meaning it saves energy, whilst its flat design allows more efficient packing and space-saving during transportation, thus further reducing its carbon footprint and logistics costs.

The London-based company is going from strength to strength, having recently expanded their range - already in Europe - into the United States, whilst also picking up the Award for Innovation at ITV's inaugural Food & Drink Awards in February.

The award follows on from a hugely successful 2019, which saw them win Best Packaging Design at the World Beverage Innovation Awards, along with a joint first place in the Innovation of the Year category at the Footprint Drinks Sustainability Awards.

Image courtesy of Garçon Wines.

5p carrier bag charge waived as UK government responds to coronavirus crisis

Plastic carrier bags

The UK government has waived the 5p charge on plastic carrier bags for online deliveries, in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The waiver will allow supermarkets to speed up their processing of online deliveries at a time of unprecedented demand, following the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Environment Secretary George Eustice announced the ban as part of a raft of measures aimed at ensuring a steady supply of goods to consumers, with many supermarket shelves stripped by panic buyers as restrictions tighten in response to the global pandemic.

"We need people to calm down and buy only what they need and think of others while purchasing," said Eustice.

"We recognise that this is a challenging time and there are many things that the government is asking the nation to do differently.

"Be responsible when you shop and think of others. Buying more than you need means others may be left without and it is making life more difficult for our frontline workers, who are working so hard under such difficult circumstances."

This is the first time the 5p 'carrier bag tax' has been waived since it came into effect in England in October 2015, following earlier introductions in Wales (October 2011), Northern Ireland (April 2013) and Scotland (October 2014).

The charge was introduced in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic waste produced and it had an immediate effect on consumer behaviour - for a while at least.

The number of carrier bags given out by supermarkets in England dropped by 74% in the first two years - from 7.6 billion in 2014 to two billion in 2016, with Wales (71%), Northern Ireland (72%) and Scotland (80%) reporting similar decreases in the first 12 months of their respective schemes.

Long-term changes in consumer habits have not all been quite so positive, however.

A report in November 2019 found that seven of the UK's ten leading supermarkets had actually increased the amount of plastic packaging they use in the previous 12 months, including a 25 percent increase in the use of 'bags for life'.

These sturdy plastic bags - which must be used four times to be deemed more eco-friendly than a traditional carrier bag - were designed to be used until they wore out, but the report suggests that this is not happening, with 1.5 billion of them handed out in 12 months - the equivalent of 54 per UK household.

US egg retailer launches industry-first reusable packaging

Pete & Gerry's Organic Eggs' new resuable cartons

We're used to taking reusable shopping bags to the supermarket and an increasing number of us get our take-away coffee in a reusable mug, so how about using a reusable carton to buy our fresh eggs from the supermarket?

One US egg retailer is hoping its customers are ready to do just that, having developed the world's first reusable egg carton to go to market.

Pete & Gerry's Organic Eggs have launched a pilot trial for the new packaging - made of recycled, durable, BPA-free plastic - at two branches of the Hanover Co-op Food Stores, in New Hampshire and Vermont.

The polypropylene cartons, which currently retail at $2.99, can be washed at home and reused repeatedly, with customers able to refill their tray from the company's display of loose eggs - available at a discounted rate compared to boxed eggs, so that the reusable carton pays for itself over time.

Pete & Gerry's have already shown that you don't need to be a corporate giant to come up with big ideas in the sustainable packaging industry.

In 2012, the brand worked with Canadian research company Quantis to carry out a complete environmental life-cycle assessment of a range of egg cartons, which found their recycled PET packaging to be the most environmentally friendly.

But now the company has gone one step further, in the hope that their customers will join them on their journey to become even more sustainable.

"While we are confident in the sustainability of our current carton - which is made from 100% recycled plastic and has less environmental impact than the Styrofoam or molded pulp cartons used by conventional egg brands - we continue to challenge ourselves to find even better ways to improve our environmental stewardship," said Pete & Gerry's CEO Jesse Laflamme.

"Reusable cartons are a logical next step in our ongoing commitment to sustainability, moving consumer behavior from recycling to reuse. We plan to expand this program in 2020 to reach even more consumers and amplify the program's impact with major retailers clamoring for this type of sustainable innovation."

According to Pete & Gerry's, the average US consumer eats 279 eggs per year, or the equivalent of 23 dozen-size egg cartons.

Replacing the cartons used by just one person with a reusable version would save more than 1,800 cartons from entering the recycling and waste stream across the course of their lifetime.

Projecting this to the US population of 330 million people, you could replace more than 594 billion cartons over a lifetime - enough to circle the globe over 4,000 times - which highlights the impact that a more sustainable choice of packaging could make in just a single industry.

Pete & Gerry's have some way to go to change the industry as a whole but, after a positive response to the trial to date - both in store and via public messages of support - they are determined to lead the way.

"Our consumers expect Pete and Gerry's to be on the leading edge of sustainability," added Laflamme.

"Like many other consumer packaged goods companies, we recognize that reuse is even better than recycling, and we're proud to be at the forefront of this growing movement to help reduce the impact of packaging on the planet.

"This is a pilot program, but we are emboldened by the initial results and committed to new ways of thinking about how we deliver on our promise to be a responsible force for good."

Images courtesy of Pete & Gerry's Organic Eggs.

Bioplastic breakthrough could revolutionise recycling

Plastic bottles ready for recycling

Researchers at two UK universities have developed a new method of chemical recycling that could prove a major breakthrough in how we use and recycle plastic.

The scientists broke down a sustainable bioplastic into its original building blocks, which could potentially allow the material to be recycled repeatedly without losing quality.

UK consumers currently recycle around 45 per cent of plastic waste - a figure that is on the increase - but, due to the limitations of current recycling methods, recycled plastic is invariably of lower quality than an original product.

This degradation in quality is the reason why plastic drink bottles cannot be repeatedly made into new bottles, but instead are used for lower-grade products such as plastic furniture, playground equipment or insulation for clothes and sleeping bags.

But now a research team at the Universities of Bath and Birmingham have developed a method of chemical recycling that could potentially make new plastics of the same quality as the original.

The new research - published in the sustainable chemistry journal ChemSusChem - moves away from traditional recycling to chemical recycling methods, which convert plastics back into their constituent chemical molecules.

"Most plastic is currently recycled using mechanical methods, where they are chipped into granules and melted down before being moulded into something new," said Professor Matthew Jones from the Centre for Sustainable & Circular Technologies at the University of Bath.

"The problem is, melting plastic changes its properties, and reduces the quality, which limits the range of products in which it can be used.

"Our method of chemical recycling overcomes this problem by breaking down plastic polymers into their chemical building blocks, so they can be used all over again to make virgin plastic without losing any properties."

Professor Jones and his colleagues recycled plant-based polyactic acid (PLA) - a bioplastic made from starch or crop waste which is used in the production of biodegradable food packaging and disposable cutlery.

Although the use of PLA in packaging is on the increase, limitations on both its biodegradability and recyclability pose problems for the industry - something the paper's lead author hopes their research can help to overcome.

"Whilst PLA is biodegradable under industrial conditions, it doesn't biodegrade with home composting, and isn't currently recycled, so at the moment it commonly ends up contributing to the tonnes of plastic waste in landfill and oceans," said Dr Paul McKeown from the University of Bath.

"There is no single solution to the problem of plastic waste – the approach has to be a combination of reducing, reusing and recycling.

"Our method of chemical recycling could allow carbon to be recycled indefinitely - creating a circular economy rather than digging more up from the ground in the form of fossil fuels, or releasing it into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas."

Dr McKeown and his team have extended their trial to test out a similar process for recycling PET - the material used to make drinks bottles - whilst collaborators at the University of Birmingham are also attempting scale up the research and replicate the results using larger quantities of starting chemicals.

With public awareness growing around both the issue of plastic pollution and the climate emergency, consumer demand for eco-friendly packaging is increasing all the time.

Retailers across the UK continue to expand their eco-packaging ranges, with leading manufacturer Polybags also rolling out a set of packaging standards across its catalogue to help customers choose the right sort of eco-packaging for them.

A series of handy icons assigned to each product identifies, amongst other things, whether that product is biodegradable, compostable, recyclable or made from 100% recycled material. Each icon is linked to a helpful eco-packaging guide that presents customers with all of the information they need to know about Polybags' range of sustainable products.

Whilst these categories are often quite distinct in today's market, this new research points to a future with a much greater crossover between bioplastics and recyclables, which is surely good news in the battle to tackle plastic waste.

Colgate launches 'first ever' recyclable toothpaste tube

Colgate's new 'Smile for Good' toothpaste

Colgate has been hailed for breaking new ground in the packaging world by launching a new toothpaste in a recyclable tube.

The new 'Smile for Good' brand is part of the company's target to make all of its packaging recyclable by 2025.

Global consumers are estimated to use 20 billion tubes of toothpaste a year.

Until now, these tubes have been typically difficult to recycle, due to their traditional mix of materials, such as plastic or aluminum.

But now Colgate's engineers have found a way to transform high density polyethylene (HDPE) - the hard plastic used to produce milk containers - into a 'comfortably squeezable' tube, which can be placed in traditional recycling collections after use.

The breakthrough tube was five years in development, but Colgate-Palmolive have said they will share the technology with rival manufacturers, as part of its commitment to reduce usage of one of the least-recyclable forms of plastic packaging.

"Colgate wants to make tubes a part of the circular economy by keeping this plastic productive and eliminating waste," said Colgate-Palmolive's chief executive, Noel Wallace.

"If we can standardise recyclable tubes among all companies, we all win. We can align on these common standards for tubes and still compete with what’s inside them."

The new toothpaste is on sale in Boots and Waitrose and, whilst it comes at a high price for consumers at £5 for a 75ml tube - six times more than other Colgate brands - the breakthrough has been welcomed by waste industry experts.

"It is encouraging to see a major brand making efforts to design plastic packaging that is more easily recyclable," said Helen Bird, strategic engagement manager at the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

"It is important that changes like this are made in collaboration with other partners in the supply chain, to ensure that the packaging can be recycled within our current infrastructure."

Image courtesy of Colgate-Palmolive.

Polybags launches 2020 vision

Polybags 2020 stocklist

Environmentally-friendly packaging solutions have been placed front and centre in the 2020 Polybags catalogue, which is out now.

The Greenford manufacturer has been at the forefront of the eco-packaging industry in the UK since the 1990s and their new 120-page colour stocklist features a wide range of new products, including an extended eco-friendly offering across many ranges - all available via the Polybags website.

Founded in 1962, Polybags has been one of the UK's most trusted packaging manufacturers for over half a century, but an ever-increasing range of products made from recyclable, compostable, biodegradable and recycled materials - supported by a helpful online guide to eco-packaging - has marked them out as an industry leader in the field in recent years.

Among the new ranges in their 2020 catalogue - which is printed on paper from responsible sources and contributes to sustainable forest management - are a variety of fully recyclable mailing solutions, including padded paper mailing bags, extra large kraft mailers and inflatable protection bags.

Jon Lomax, managing director at Polybags, said: "Our commitment to environmental issues is ongoing and it evolves as advances in technology create new eco-friendly opportunities and challenges. At Polybags, we firmly believe in socially-responsible production and this is embedded into every aspect of our company culture."

Customers can request a copy of the new Polybags catalogue via the company's website, where you can also browse the entire Polybags catalogue online.

Plastic ban 'could be harmful' for environment, warns report

Fruit in plastic packaging on display

Public pressure on companies to get rid of plastic packaging could result in more harmful consequences for the environment, a report has revealed.

New research for the Circular Economy Task Force, based on anonymised interviews from leading UK supermarkets and brands, reveals that companies are on the verge of swapping plastic for other materials with potentially greater environmental consequences, including higher carbon emissions.

The report by the Green Alliance - an environmental charity and think tank - claims that an absence of government direction in tackling plastic pollution is leading to a disjointed and potentially counterproductive approach to solving the problem.

Relatively little has changed in two years since the BBC's Blue Planet II series cemented the issue of plastic pollution into the public's consciousness, with the equivalent of 900 pieces of 'single-use' plastic still put on supermarket shelves for every person living in the UK every year.

The new report, entitled 'Plastic promises: what the grocery sector is really doing about packaging', quotes industry insiders, showing that big changes are on the way that could have negative consequences, including higher carbon emissions and lower packaging recyclability.

For example, single-use plastic is being replaced by other single-use packaging, or plastic bottles by glass bottles, with businesses admitting that alternatives are sometimes being chosen without fully evaluating their environmental impact.

"We are aware that [by switching from plastic to other materials] we may, in some cases, be increasing our carbon footprint," said one interviewee, whilst another said: "There are people who would like us to take plastic out of the soft drinks section and replace it with something else like glass and Tetra paks, which aren’t recycled [in the area]."

The report highlights concerns over compostable or 'biodegradable' plastic, a lack of understanding of what the terms mean and how the materials should be dealt with once used.

Interviewees wanted a clearer approach on this issue and bemoaned a lack of "joined up thinking" across the sector, whilst others were concerned over misinformation about the eco-credentials of the alternatives to plastic packaging.

"The past year has just really pissed me off no end with companies coming out and boasting about not using plastic, even when they're in single-use glass, and their carbon emissions are going to be off the scale," said one respondent.

The report says that many companies want to see more "top-down intervention", with the government being "braver" and playing a bigger role in directing developments and setting standards so that future action is coherent across the industry.

Libby Peake, senior policy adviser on resources at Green Alliance, said: "The public are right to be outraged about plastic pollution. But what we don't want is, a few years down the line, for them to be outraged about new environmental problems caused by the alternatives. We need to address the root of the problem, our throwaway society.

"Companies need much more help from the government to tackle plastic pollution without making climate change and other environmental impacts worse in the process."

Despite the shared aims and commitments of companies across the grocery sector, the report states that individual companies are developing their own policies around plastic to gain a competitive advantage, which could end up making environmental problems worse.

"If we aren't careful, short term decisions could cause longer term problems for establishing a true circular economy," said Adam Read, external affairs director at SUEZ recycling and recovery UK - a member of the Circular Task Economy Force.

"As the war on plastics continues to rage, avoiding unintended consequences should be at the forefront of everyone's minds, and that includes government, industry and, of course, consumers. Change must be managed and planned if we're to move towards fully closed-loop systems for recycling and, more importantly, reuse.

"That means we need to think much more carefully - and quickly - about how materials like compostable plastic are introduced. We must ensure a system where they are used where they make sense and in a way that people will understand to limit contamination and leakage."

'Bags for life' blamed as UK supermarkets' plastic use increases

Bags for life

Seven of the UK's top 10 supermarkets have increased the amount of plastic packaging they use in the last 12 months, a damning new report has revealed.

Of the 10 retail giants - who represent 94.4 percent of the grocery retail market - only Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury's have managed to achieve small reductions to their plastic footprint in 2019.

The report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace revealed that the amount of plastic produced by UK supermarkets has risen to more than 900,000 tonnes a year, despite public commitments to reduce the figure.

This includes sales of an astonishing 1.5 billion bags for life - an increase of 25 percent on last year based on market share.

Bags for life were designed to be used repeatedly until they are worn out, at which point supermarkets would replace them but, with the 1.5 billion figure representing around 54 bags per UK household, the title 'bag for a week' would be closer to the mark.

EIA ocean campaigner Juliet Phillips said: "It's shocking to see that despite unprecedented awareness of the pollution crisis, the amount of single-use plastic used by the UK's biggest supermarkets has actually increased in the past year.

"Our survey shows that grocery retailers need to tighten up targets to drive real reductions in single-use packaging and items. We need to address our throwaway culture at root through systems change, not materials change – substituting one single-use material for another is not the solution."

Since the introduction of a 5p carrier bag tax on traditional 'single use' carrier bags came into effect in October 2015, the number of carrier bags given out by supermarkets dropped from 7.6 billion in 2014 to two billion in 2016.

Many supermarkets no longer give out the old 'single use' carrier, but the rise in use of 'bags for life' suggests that many people have now switched to using these thicker bags, which contain far more plastic than their lighter counterparts.

A 2011 Environment Agency study found that 'bags for life' needed to be used at least four times to ensure they contributed less to climate change than the lighter, single-use bags, yet many supermarkets have drastically increased their use in the past year.

Iceland's sales of 'bags for life' have risen tenfold in the past 12 months - from 3.5 million to 34 million - whilst Tesco's sales rose from 430 million to 713 million - an increase of almost two-thirds.

The Greenpeace and EIA report calls for a total government ban or a minimum 'bag for life' charge of 70p. It references a cut in sales of 90% in the Republic of Ireland, following a similar price hike in 2017.

"I think it's clear from this that customers are using them ['bags for life'] as a single-use option. Clearly the five to 10p charge is not enough to incentivise customers to stop using these just once," said Phillips.

"'Bags for life' actually contain more plastic than single-use carriers did, so they are having more of an environmental impact if people are just using them once."

Retailers get set for Christmas with last-minute festive packaging offers

Your top Christmas packaging deals in one place

  • United Kingdom - Promotional carrier bags & mailing bags from Polybags, plus other festive special offers
  • USA - Fantastic Christmas gift bag offers from Papermart and Party City
  • Australia & New Zealand - Great Christmas gift bag selection from The Base Warehouse (Aus) and The Warehouse (NZ)
Christmas packaging 2019

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, 'tis the season to be jolly... if you're looking for packaging bargains!

With December upon us, retailers everywhere are in the midst of the busiest few weeks of the year.

The clock is counting down fast to Christmas day and, with high quality festive packaging so important at this time of year, it's vital that retailers are stocked up on packaging to meet their business needs, whilst bringing some Christmas cheer to their customers.

Of course, your personalised, printed festive packaging will have been sorted well in advance but, if you're looking to top up your packaging to cater for the last-minute rush then there are still plenty of deals to be had, wherever you are in the world.

In the United States, there's a great selection of Christmas gift bags on sale at Papermart, who also offer a bulk discount of 15% off any orders over €200, which could come in handy if you want to pick up some of their jumbo plastic Christmas gift bags.

It's also party time at Party City, who are offering a buy-one-get-one-half-price offer on their Christmas gift bags and boxes.

There's a sunny Christmas on the way down under, but that doesn't make it any less festive. In Australia, The Base Warehouse has a great selection of Christmas Gift Bags, as does The Warehouse in New Zealand.

On this side of the pond, Polybags - the UK's number one polythene manufacturer - has some great festive special offers to spread the Christmas spirit to their customers, with 20% off their range of jumbo carriers - perfect for stuffing as full as Santa's sack - and 10% off gift bottle bags.

Whether you're an online retailer who needs mailing bags for those last minute deliveries, or you need to stock up on some festive red and white carriers to bring the joys of Christmas to your customers, with over 100 million polythene bags in stock, Polybags can cater for every festive need.

Product images courtesy of Papermart.com, Partycity.com, Thewarehouse.co.nz and Polybags.co.uk.

Bioplastic made from fish waste scoops design award for British student

Packaging made from fish waste

A British student who designed a compostable alternative to plastic film made of fish waste has won a prestigious design award and a £30,000 prize.

Lucy Hughes, a product design graduate from the University of Sussex, was the 2019 International Winner of the James Dyson Award for her product MarinaTex, which has the potential to replace plastic in food and drink packaging.

In designing the product as part of her degree, the 24-year-old sought to solve the twin problems of single-use plastics and inefficient waste by using fish off-cuts that would otherwise end up in landfill to create a home-compostable alternative to plastic film.

A report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation states that 50 million tonnes of fish waste are produced globally each year, whilst fish processing in the UK alone produces 172,000 tonnes of waste annually.

MarinaTex claims to find a new use for this waste with a more circular end product that can biodegrade naturally in a soil environment in four to six weeks, despite tensile tests showing the product to be stronger at the same thickness than LDPE - the polythene commonly used in plastic bags - making it ideal for packaging applications.

"Plastic is an amazing material, and as a result we have become too reliant on it as designers and engineers," said Hughes.

"It makes no sense to me that we're using plastic, an incredibly durable material, for products that have a life-cycle of less than a day."

"For me, MarinaTex represents a commitment to material innovation and selection by incorporating sustainable, local and circular values into design. As creators, we should not limit ourselves in designing to just form and function, but rather form, function and footprint."

Hughes had already pocketed £2,000 in September as the winner of the UK awards, before beating competition from over 1,000 young designers from 28 different countries this month to scoop the international prize.

The James Dyson award is open to current and recent design engineering students, challenging them to "design something that solves a problem".

The awards are run by the James Dyson Foundation - the British designer’s charitable trust - as part of its mission to get young people excited about design engineering.

Dyson said: "Young engineers have the passion, awareness and intelligence to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. Ultimately, we decided to pick the idea the world could least do without. MarinaTex elegantly solves two problems: the ubiquity of single-use plastic and fish waste."

Image courtesy of MarinaTex.co.uk.

Polybags go green for new 2019 catalogue

Polybags' catalogue

Polybags Ltd has put eco-packaging to the fore in their new spring/summer 2019 catalogue.

The 116-page colour stocklist from the UK's leading polythene packaging manufacturer features a wide range of new products, including more eco-friendly options that reflect Polybags' commitment to environmental responsibility.

You can browse the full catalogue online via the Polybags website or, if you'd prefer a hard copy of the catalogue - which features a bold green summer's day cover - you can request one online and the friendly Polybags team will post it out to you.

A longstanding market leader on eco-packaging, Polybags recently launched a helpful guide to eco-packaging to help customers distinguish between indexed compostable, biodegradable, recyclable and 100%-recycled products through a series of handy icons across their online catalogue.

Now their ever-increasing range of eco-friendly products are being put front and centre in their new catalogue, as they are incorporated into existing product ranges, rather than being displayed separately.

With their new eco-ranges featuring amongst 100 million bags in stock across a dozen categories - from carrier bags to waste sacks - along with a free sample service, free UK delivery and their famous no-quibbles guarantee, Polybags' new catalogue shows why they continue to lead the way on the UK packaging market.

Tesco trials packaging-free fruit and vegetables

Supermarket loose bananas

Supermarket giant Tesco has launched a plastic-free trial on fruit and vegetables in a bid to reduce packaging waste.

The month-long pilot, which began on 25 March, will see Tesco Extra stores in Watford and Swindon remove all plastic packaging from 45 products where loose versions are available, including apples, bananas, onions, peppers, mushrooms and avocados.

The supermarket chain previously announced plans to ban hard-to-recycle plastic packaging by 2019, whilst pledging to make all packing fully-recyclable by 2025.

Sarah Bradbury, director of quality at Tesco, said: "We want to remove as much plastic as we can from our products, only using what is necessary to protect and preserve our food.

"We hope this trial proves popular with customers.  We'll be keeping a close eye on the results, including any impact on food waste.”

A report by Greenpeace in November revealed that the UK's 10 leading supermarkets are putting 810,000 tonnes of single-use plastic packaging on to the market every year.

In addition, the supermarkets are responsible for putting 1.1bn 'single-use' plastic bags, 1.2bn plastic bags for fruit and vegetables and 958m reusable 'bags for life' on the market, according to a Greenpeace survey.

Tesco is the UK's largest supermarket chain, commanding over a quarter (27.4%) of the market.

The results of their new trial will be awaited with interest by a packaging industry seeking to balance increasing consumer demand for a reduction in plastic packaging with a reduction in food waste.

Last year, the Waste and Resources Action Programme reported that UK households produced 7.1 million tonnes of food waste in 2015. This is out of a total of 10.2 million tonnes of post-farm food waste, worth an estimated £20 billion.

Unwanted food that ends up in landfill creates methane - a greenhouse gas roughly 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Currently only 35% of households in England are obliged to put food waste in a separate bin or caddy, compared to 56% in Scotland and 100% in Wales.

Children show parents the way on recycling

Four coloured recycling bins

Parents have been shamed by their own children for bad recycling practices, a survey has revealed.

A poll of 2,000 parents found one in six believed their children - aged five to 18 - knew more about recycling than they did.

Two-thirds of adults confessed to throwing something away simply because they 'can't be bothered' to recycle it, whilst four in 10 said they had been caught doing so by one of their children.

Kids were also good at prompting positive habits at the supermarket, with half reminding parents to use 'bags for life' rather than using 'single-use' carrier bags, whilst one in four encouraged parents to buy loose fruit and vegetables with no plastic packaging.

The research was carried out by the Mid-Counties Co-Operative, whose '1Change' campaign aims to "engage members and the next generation" to tackle the use of single-use plastics.

"Reducing single-use plastic is a high priority for our 700,000 members, so we wanted to understand whether this desire was making its way to the next generation," said Mike Pickering, the co-operative's social responsibility manager.

"Our results show, happily, that the mantle is also being passed down, with children showing real engagement in sustainable living - something we see regularly through our work with schools."

Three quarters of adults polled said they were worried about the state of the world they would leave behind for the next generation, although only six out of 10 said they were trying to cut down on single-use plastics.

Eight out of 10 respondents believed retailers have a responsibility to teach customers more about recycling packaging and single-use plastics.

"It's up to all of us to make sure we're doing our best when it comes to our purchasing habits and recycling," added Pickering.

"Through 1Change, the Society is working with schools to educate children about the environmental impact of single-use plastic. We're seeking to engage with 50 schools through our 'Plastic is not Fantastic' education programme this year.

"We're also removing single-use plastic carrier bags across our premium supermarkets by 2020 and we're committed to reduce waste through our operations by 20 percent by 2022, while maintaining our recycling rate of 99 percent."

Eco-packaging broken down by leading manufacturer

Polybags' eco-friendly bags and standards

New Polybags guide helps customers to make an informed choice on green packaging

The tide is starting to turn in the fight to tackle plastic pollution.

The UK government is consulting on plans for a ban on single-use plastic items such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds by 2020, whilst the European Union voted overwhelmingly for a similar ban to come into effect by 2021.

Thanks largely to David Attenborough's Blue Planet II series - which highlighted the plight of wildlife affected by plastic waste in our oceans - the public has never been more switched on to the problem or more keen to seek eco-friendly alternatives.

The most eco-friendly option is often for consumers to simply re-use existing bags before recycling them. The term 'single-use' carrier bag is a misnomer, whereas resealable bags such as grip seal bags are designed for multiple uses.

Nevertheless, with plastic waste so high on the public agenda, many consumers are looking for alternatives to traditional polythene packaging altogether. Unfortunately, the information available to them to make an informed choice on such an important topic is often lacking - until now at least.

With environmental considerations high on their agenda, one UK packaging company has introduced a series of standards to help customers better understand the difference between the various types of eco-friendly packaging that they stock and manufacture.

Polybags Ltd has introduced to its website a series of handy icons to help customers distinguish between the different forms of eco-packaging in its extensive range. These are supported by a series of articles and classifications to explain each standard and help customers distinguish between them.

The new eco-standards include:

Polybags don't stop there. Their online catalogue is now categorised to highlight a range of other product features that will no doubt prove useful to prospective buyers.

Food-safe, freezer-safe and antistatic products are all highlighted, as are resealable and peel & seal bags, plus extra strong and high-security packaging, to name a few.

Each easily-identifiable product feature is covered with a handy user guide to allow customers to make an informed choice.

As the UK market leader in polythene bags and responsible packaging, many more packaging companies are expected to follow Polybags' lead and adopt a more transparent approach to informing their customers about the products they are buying.

Fungi could help win the war on the plastic waste


The war on plastic packaging waste has received a new ally - fungi.

Researchers at London's Kew Gardens have released a report on the state of the world's fungi and top of the bill - for the packaging industry at least - was the revelation that the natural properties of fungi could be used to break down plastic in weeks rather than years.

Dr Ilia Leitch, senior scientist at Kew Gardens, said: "This is incredibly exciting because it is such a big environmental challenge. If this can be the solution, that would be great."

The report highlighted a recent study by a team of scientists from China and Pakistan, who discovered the fungus Aspergillus tubingensis was degrading plastic on a waste disposal site in Islamabad.

Having isolated the fungus, the scientists observed that it was capable of breaking down the bonds in plastics such as polyester polyurethane - used in a variety of products, including refrigerator insulation and synthetic leather - in a matter of weeks, rather than decades, as would be the case if left to degrade naturally.

"There is this hidden, mysterious kingdom that is underpinning the majority of life on earth," said Dr Leitch.

"We just don't know enough about them… There are fungi inside plant cells and they can influence how resilient a plant is to climate change. There are all these different links and impacts that we just take for granted but we ignore them at our peril.

"By understanding how the fungi break down these bonds and what the optimal conditions are, you can then increase the speed at which they do it."

There are estimated to be up to 3.8 million species of fungus on the planet, only 144,000 of which have currently been named and classified.

With 2,000 new species being added to that list each year, Aspergillus tubingensis has highlighted the exciting potential for using fungi as a tool to address the growing problem of managing plastic waste.

Researchers estimate that more than 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the early 1950s, about 60% of which has ended up in either landfill or the natural environment.

With almost 300 million tonnes of plastic currently produced every year and an estimated eight million tonnes dumped annually into our oceans, plastic pollution is becoming an increasing global concern.

But with scientists exploring the potential of other fungi and microorganisms to break down a range of plastics, Dr Leitch is hopeful that a major breakthrough will be found within the next decade.

"We are in the early days of research but I would hope to see the benefits of fungi that can eat plastic in five to 10 years," she said.

Businesses to foot the bill for waste recycling

Plastic bottle for recyling

Businesses and manufacturers will be forced to pay for the recycling or disposal of packaging waste they produce, as part a major new government waste strategy.

The comprehensive strategy update - the first from the government in over a decade - aims to overhaul waste management in England and, for the first time, make those who produce packaging legally and financially responsible for the resulting waste.

By extending 'producer responsibility' the government aims to reverse the financial burden of waste management, which currently sees business pay for just 10% of disposal or recycling costs, whilst the taxpayer - via local authorities - picks up the remaining 90%.

Producers will also be expected to take more responsibility for expensive- or hard-to-recycle items, such as cars, batteries and electrical goods.

The wide-ranging Resources and Waste Strategy also targets a simplified and consistent approach to recycling across England in a bid to improve recycling rates, which have plateaued since 2013.

The strategy also includes plans for public consultations on both a deposit return scheme for "single-use" drinks containers - including plastic bottles, cans and take-away coffee cups - and a return to weekly food waste collections in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from landfill.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove hopes the strategy will eliminate avoidable plastic waste and help leave the environment in a better state for future generations.

"Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together we can move away from being a 'throw-away' society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource," said Gove.

"We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste.

"Through this plan we will cement our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it."

Public eye

The new government strategy builds on other recent policies aimed at reducing waste, including a ban on microbeads in personal care products and a 5p 'carrier bag tax', which has taken a reported 15 billion plastic bags out of circulation.

Waste management - and how to deal with plastic waste in particular - has never been more in the public eye, following David Attenborough's Blue Planet II series, which highlighted the dangers of waste pollution in our oceans.

Professor Richard Thompson, Head of the International Marine Litter Research Unit at the University of Plymouth, believes the strategy outlines key steps towards making progress on waste reduction, but says that producers and consumers both have a key role to play.

"Engaging with producers is crucial because unless products are designed with end of life in mind it is almost inevitable that resource will be wasted unnecessarily," said Prof Thompson.

"The consumer also has an essential role to play. Of course there are some instances where we simply don't need to use plastics in the first place but there are many applications where plastics are the best materials for the job, and we need clear and accurate guidance to inform decisions and change behaviour.

"In my view this is broader than just the consumer and we need to change behaviours right along the supply chain so that we design, use and dispose of plastics more sustainably. It is only by doing so that we can realise the advantages of plastics without the current environmental impacts."

MPs call for deposit return scheme for plastic bottles

Plastic bottle waste on beach

A UK-wide deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and a requirement for all public premises to provide free drinking water are amongst the recommendations of an influential group of MPs in a bid to reduce plastic waste.

The Environmental Audit Committee has also called for more water fountains in parks and public spaces and for government to shift the financial burden of packaging waste from the taxpayer to packaging producers.

The cross-party group of MPs, who monitor government performance on a range of environmental issues, has demanded that the government takes action now to stem the rising tide of plastic waste in the ocean.

700,000 plastic bottles are currently littered in UK every day, whilst 8-12 million tonnes of plastic are thrown into the world's oceans each year - something that UN Oceans Chief Lisa Svensson describes as a 'planetary crisis'.

"Urgent action is needed to protect our environment from the devastating effects of marine plastic pollution, said Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee.

"Our throwaway society uses 13 billion plastic bottles each year, around half of which are not recycled. Plastic bottles make up a third of all plastic pollution in the sea, and are a growing litter problem on UK beaches. We need action at individual, council, regional and national levels to turn back the plastic tide."

In a bid to reduce plastic bottle waste, the committee has called on the government to:

  • Introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic drinks bottles
  • Introduce a requirement for all public premises that serve food and drink to provide free drinking water
  • Increase the number of public water fountains
  • Make producers financially responsible for the plastic packaging they produce and to phase in a mandated 50% recycled plastic content in plastic bottles, to be achieved by 2023 at the latest.

The committee hopes the introduction of a deposit return scheme will do for plastic bottle waste what the recent carrier bag tax did for polythene bag waste, by shifting public perceptions and behaviour when it comes to plastic packaging.

With UK recycling rates for plastic bottles having stalled in the past five years, the committee aims to boost rates to 90% through the introduction of the scheme, which would capture bottles before they are thrown in the bin and sent to landfill.

"Around 700,000 plastic bottles are littered in the UK every day," added Creagh. "The introduction of a small charge to encourage the return of plastic bottles will result in less littering, more recycling and reduction in the impact of plastic packaging on our natural environment."

With the consumption of bottled water and soft drinks on the increase, the committee has called on government to legislate so that any public premise who serves food or drink is required to provide free drinking water on request, whilst they urged government to drastically increase the number of public water fountains so that people are not so reliant on bottled water.

Whilst licensed premises are currently required to provide free drinking water to customers, Creagh argued that it was "unacceptable" that unlicensed premises - including sports and leisure centres - are not legally obliged to do the same.

"The UK has safe, clean tap water and failing to provide it leads to unnecessary use of plastic water bottles which clog up our rivers and seas," said the MP for Wakefield.

The committee also called for a shift in the financial responsibility for dealing with packaging waste towards packaging producers, who currently pay just 10% of disposal and recycling costs, with taxpayers left to foot the bill for the remaining 90%.

They have called on the government to introduce a compliance fee structure that rewards design for recyclability and raises charges on packaging that is difficult to recycle.

In a bid to stimulate the recycled plastics market, the committee has also urged government to phase in legislation so that, by 2023 at the latest, all plastic bottles are made from a minimum of 50% recycled plastic content.

"Packaging producers don't currently have to bear the full financial burden of recycling their packaging," said Creagh.

"By reforming producer responsibility charges, the government can ensure that producers and retailers will have financial incentives to design packaging that is easily recyclable, or face higher compliance costs."

It's Christmas! Get your last-minute festive packaging now!

Round-up of the top Christmas packaging deals

Christmas gift carrier bags
  • UK & Europe - Polybags has promotional mailing bags & carrier bags plus some festive special offers
  • North America -  Christmas offers from Bags & Bows and Canadian Tire Corp
  • Australia - Christmas bags & wrapping from PaperPak

It's almost here folks - the most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, Christmas is very nearly upon us and so, just like Santa and his army of elves, retailers all over the world are right in the throes of their busiest period of the year.

Wherever you are in the world - whether getting wintry in the UK or enjoying the sun down under - quality seasonal Christmas packaging is a must for retailers everywhere during the busy festive period.

No doubt you've sorted your personalised, printed festive packaging well in advance but thankfully there's still time to ensure you're topped up with all the seasonal packaging you need and to fix any last-minute emergencies!

In the United States, packaging wholesaler Bags & Bows are offering up to 35% off a fantastic selection of Christmas gift bags that customers will love, whilst mega-retailer Canadian Tire Corporation has a great selection of Christmas gift bags and boxes to choose from.

Retailers in both Australia and New Zealand can add some holiday cheer to their packaging with PaperPak's famous festive range of wrapping, tissue and bags, featuring Christmas trees, reindeer, sweet candy canes and other festive treats!

Closer to home, Polybags - the UK's leading polythene manufacturer - have a fantastic set of festive special offers to get you in the Yuletide spirit, including 20% off gift carrier bags and 20% off mail sacks - ideal for eBay traders and online retailers.

With over 100 million polythene bags in stock, Polybags have an unrivalled selection of polythene packaging to meet any retailer's needs this Christmas. From crystal clear retail display bags to festive red and white carrier bags - including those all-important jumbo carriers at this time of year - Polybags have got your packaging needs covered this Christmas.

But time is of the essence. Santa almost has his sacks filled and sleigh polished, so don't delay - sort your Christmas packaging today! And if you want a special festive treat direct from Santa's homeland, why not pick yourself up an Arctic Doll - made from recycled polythene in Lapland itself.

Product images courtesy of BagsandBowsOnline.com and Polybags.co.uk.

"A second life for single-use plastic" - first 100% PCR plastic packaging produced

PCR plastic bottles

A British company has produced what it claims to be the world's first 100 percent post-consumer-recycled (PCR) plastic packaging.

London-based manufacturer Delphis Eco will launch their new range of eco-cleaning products in bottles made entirely from PCR plastic during Recycle Week, which runs from 25-29 September.

The company partnered with specialist producers to blow the unique food-grade quality bottles from recycled HDPE plastic granules, which were gathered by some of the UK's leading waste collectors.

Delphis Eco hope the long-awaited breakthrough will signal the onset of a new era in how waste is recycled and reused and have challenged the international manufacturing community to follow their lead.

"Our breakthrough is showing the world that there can be a second life for single-use plastic," said CEO Mark Jankovich.

"The fantastic benefits are an immediate reduction in what goes into the ocean, landfill or is burnt. If we, as a relatively small player, can bring this 100% PCR packaging to the UK market, why can't the big players?

"Just imagine if the large, international brands followed suit. Waste plastic is a huge issue and we are still only scratching the surface at finding a solution of how to get rid of it."

A breakthrough in plastic recycling would not only reduce the amount of plastic waste entering landfill and polluting oceans and waterways, but would also help to dramatically reduce CO² emissions.

According to the government agency WRAP (Waste Resources Action Programme), recycling one tonne of plastic soft drink bottles saves around 1.5 tonnes of CO².

Delphis Eco, who hold two Royal Warrants for their eco-cleaning products, expect their switch to 100% PCR to save 440 tonnes of carbon a year.

The company hope their pioneering new packaging, which creates the UK's first 100% closed-loop supply chain for plastic bottles, will encourage larger companies to work with customers and stakeholders to create a circular economy, whilst empowering customers across the country who want to help create a more sustainable world.

"Right now - big corporates and government are behind the curve," added Jankovich.

"The issue needs to be embedded high on their agendas to realise that consumers want recycled or up-cycled plastics and to drive, through legislation if necessary, a shift in the manufacturing approach to ensure a closed-loop supply cycle."

"It is estimated that over eight million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean each year - a dump truck's worth per minute. The problem is mounting and collectively, we have to take responsibility."

Plastic-eating worms could help fight waste challenge

Worms eating plastic

Scientists have stumbled upon a potential breakthrough in the fight against plastic bag waste, by accidentally discovering that waxworms eat and break down polythene.

The common waxworm (Galleria mellonella) is capable of biodegrading polyethylene, which is used to make a huge range of plastic packaging - including shopping bags and food packaging - and can take between 100 and 400 years to fully decompose.

Spanish researcher Federica Bertocchini, who is also an amateur beekeeper, made the discovery when clearing out an infestation of the worms before leaving them in a plastic bag, only to find that the creatures ate their way out.

"I went back to the room where I had left the worms and I found that they were everywhere," said Bertocchini, a research scientist at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

"They had escaped from the bag even though it had been closed and when I checked, I saw that the bag was full of holes. There was only one explanation: the worms had made the holes and had escaped. This project began there and then."

The CSIC scientist teamed up with researchers from Cambridge University to conduct further tests on the waxworm's ability to biodegrade polythene, as reported in the journal Current Biology.

When placed on a layer of polyethylene film similar to that used in making supermarket plastic bags, 100 of the worms ingested 92 mg of the material in 12 hours, with holes beginning to appear after just 40 minutes.

To ensure that the worms weren't simply chewing the plastic into smaller pieces, some worms were mashed up and smeared onto the polyethylene, which was found to reduce in mass by 13% over 14 hours compared to untreated polyethylene. Stetroscopic analysis also found that the chemical bonds in the polythene were being broken down.

Every year, approximately 80 million tonnes of polyethylene is produced globally. The substance is exceptionally strong and difficult to degrade. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) bags can take around 100 years to decompose completely, whilst the toughest, most resistant bags can take up to 400 years to break down.

The discovery of a naturally-occurring way to increase the speed of breaking down polythene, combined with a method of applying this on an industrial scale, would be the holy grail in solving the problem.

The common waxworm may yet hold the solution and the researchers believe that the similar composition of beeswax to that of polyethylene may explain why the worm has developed a way of disposing of the substance.

"We still don't know the details of how this biodegradation occurs, but there is a possibility that an enzyme is responsible, said Bertocchini.

"The next step is to detect, isolate, and produce this enzyme in vitro on an industrial scale. In this way, we can begin to successfully eliminate this highly resistant material."

Image courtesy of CSIC Communications Department.

Polymer breakthrough could revolutionise plastic recycling

Plastic bottles

American scientists have made a breakthrough that could revolutionise the plastic packaging industry, by combining previously incompatible plastics for the first time.

Polyethylene (PE) and isotactic polypropylene (iPP) currently account for two-thirds of the world's plastic waste but, because of their different chemical structures, they cannot be recycled together to make new products, thus creating huge waste management issues.

Both polymers are tough on their own but when simply blended together the resulting material is brittle and cannot be used. Technology to meld the two substances has always proved elusive to scientists, but now researchers at Cornell University and the University of Minnesota may have found the solution.

They have developed a new tetrablock (four-block) polymer - designed with alternating PE and iPP segments - that, when added to a mix of the two plastics, effectively glues them together, creating a new and mechanically tough polymer.

The breakthrough research was published in the journal Science on 23 February in a paper entitled 'Combining polyethylene and polypropylene: Enhanced performance with PE/iPP multiblock polymers'.

The research team welded together two thin film strips of plastic - one PE and one iPP - using miniscule amounts of different multi-block polymers as adhesives, which were then pulled apart.

Welds made with diblock (two-block) polymers failed but their tetrablock polymer formed such a strong weld that the plastic strips themselves broke whilst the weld stayed intact.

The breakthrough could spawn a whole new class of tough polymer blends whilst potentially revolutionising the plastics recycling industry, something that excites Geoffrey Coates, Tisch University Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University and a member of the research team.

"The overall goal was to try to find a way to make a better material from the world's number one and number two polymers, and also help recycling of these polymers that are two-thirds of our waste stream," said Coates.

"If you could make the properties better, so that you use less of them, or if could find a way to more efficiently recycle these polymers, we would have a huge impact on sustainability in a way that we don't currently have by making a new polymer.

"The dream is could you take all the world's polyethylene and polypropylene and just throw it together and melt it down and get a material that has good properties, or maybe even better than one of the materials alone.

"The big advantage of that would be, say we could make a milk jug where we use five percent less polymer because the properties are better, think of the world's savings on all that plastic."

Polybags take step into the blue with new winter catalogue

Polybags catalogue - winter 2016The UK's number one polythene packaging manufacturer, Polybags Ltd, have surprised the packaging world with a brand new catalogue in a new winter colour.

Renowned for their bold magenta branding, Polybags have taken an unexpected step by releasing their new winter catalogue in a seasonal blue.

You can browse the full catalogue on the Polybags website or, if you'd like to see the new winter blue design in all its glory, simply order a catalogue online and the friendly Polybags team will pop one in the post.

With over 100 million bags in stock, the new catalogue features Polybags' full range of autumn/winter stock to keep you going through the coldest months of the year. But don't worry, their marketing team assure us that their traditional magenta will return along with the warmer weather!

Featuring a dozen easy-to-browse categories from packing bags to waste sacks, the new winter catalogue covers every product in Polybags' expanding range, including a host of new products such as wicketed food bags and resealable stand-up pouches - the ideal packaging for a range of food products.

With free samples available to try before you buy, a bespoke printed service on most products, along with free delivery to mainland UK and their famous no-quibbles guarantee, it's easy to see why Polybags have been leading the way in UK packaging for over 55 years.

So take a step into the blue a get yourself a copy of the Polybags winter catalogue today.

Scientists discover plastic-eating bacteria

Plastic-eating bacteriaThe way we deal with plastic waste could be revolutionised after the discovery of a new bacteria that 'eats' one of the most common forms of plastic.

A team of scientists in Japan discovered that the new species of bacteria, known as Ideonella sakaiensis 201-F6, could break down polyethylene terephthalate - or PET - which is used to make millions of plastic bottles a year.

Shosuke Yoshida and his colleagues from Keio University and the Kyoto Institute of Technology analysed debris from outside a plastic recycling facility and found the bacteria could use PET as its main energy and carbon source.

When grown on PET, the bacterium used two distinct enzymes that reacted with water to break down the plastic into two environmentally-benign substances: terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol.

The ability to degrade PET through enzymes had previously been thought to be limited to a few species of fungus, but the new bacteria was found to completely degrade a thin layer of PET after just six weeks.

The discovery, reported in the journal Science, could be a revolutionary breakthrough for the packaging industry if the process can be sped up significantly.

Researchers have already sequenced the bacteria's genome in a bid to build stronger and faster strains. The packaging and recycling communities await the results with interest.

Christmas gifts for polythene packaging shoppers

Mailtuf strong despatch sacksChristmas isn't just a good time for online retailers because of bumper sales (see 'Record Christmas deliveries' article, below) but also because it's a great time to pick up some polythene packaging bargains.

With Christmas just around the corner, Polybags - the UK's number one polythene manufacturer - is currently providing customers with some festive cheer by offering a series of great offers, including 20% off all Mailtuf strong mailing sacks for the whole of December.

These smart, professional mailing bags are made from extra-strong 75 micron (300 gauge) co-extruded polythene meaning they can withstand plenty of bumps and scrapes, providing you with total peace of mind about your deliveries at this the busiest time of the year.

The fantastic offer of 20% off comes just in time for Christmas, as is the case for Polybags' range of supreme high tensile white vest carriers - Polybags' recommended carrier range and a perfect seasonal white - and their brilliant resealable stand-up pouches - the perfect range of display bags for a range of retail products, available in all-over crystal clear film or with a shiny metallic silver backing to really make your products sparkle.

Black Friday fever has gripped the nation with two specialist packaging websites offering big voucher deals that they have extended into December. Blacksacks.co.uk are offering 20% off economy black sacks when you spend just £30, while at mailingbags.co.uk you can get 20% off all secure black mailing sacks on all orders over £75.

So there's plenty for UK retailers and packaging customers to feel festive about, but the Christmas spirit isn't just restricted to this part of the world.

In Australia, Bee Dee Bags have got a fantastic range of Christmas packaging on offer, including loads of festive plastic carrier bags, Christmas paper bags and a range of non-woven calico bags, all featuring super festive designs.

In the United States, Plus Packaging Inc. have a fantastic range of offers for the holiday season from Thanksgiving through to Christmas, with 10% off all first time orders of printed plastic bags, printed tape or other custom-printed packaging until 30 December 2016. They're also giving away a free tape dispenser for anyone who buys five cases of 2" Poly Pro tape.

So whether you're down under, State-side or in the UK, now's the time to get your hands on all the polythene packaging you need for the festive season and grab yourself a bargain while you're at it.

Record Christmas deliveries set to provide festive cheer to retailers

Santa shopperThe continued growth of online shopping means that Christmas 2016 is all set to be another bumper festive season for online retailers in the UK.

Royal Mail delivered 130 million parcels in December 2015, an increase of 6% on the previous year, thanks predominantly to the continued growth of online shopping.

Figures published by the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index in January showed that UK shoppers spent £24bn online between 1 November and 26 December 2015 - an increase of 12% on the same period in 2014.

Sales peaked during the week of Black Friday, which falls on the fourth Friday in November each year and has recently become the biggest event in the retail calendar. 17% of Christmas sales took place during Black Friday week, an increase of 62% on the previous week, with bargain-hungry shoppers spending an estimated £4.3bn on discounted products.

Total online sales for 2015 reached £114bn - an increase of 11% on the previous 12 months - with a further growth of 11% forecast for 2016, predicting a staggering e-retail spend of £126bn this year.

This is good news for online retailers, mail order companies and eBay sellers, who can expect to be sending out parcels and packages in record numbers again this festive season.

5p carrier bag charge introduced in England

5p plastic bag chargeEngland has become the last part of the UK to introduce a levy on plastic carrier bags. From 5 October 2015, shoppers at major supermarkets and other large retailers have to pay a minimum of 5p for each carrier bag they use.

The new 'carrier bag tax' was implemented by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in a bid to significantly reduce the number of plastic bags taken away from shops. In 2014, 7.64 billion carrier bags were given out by major supermarkets in England.

The move follows the success of similar schemes in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have all seen a reduction in carrier bag usage amongst consumers since they were implemented.

The launch of the scheme in England caused some confusion, however, due to a number of exemptions to when retailers must charge for bags, based on employee numbers, the thickness and style of carrier bag and the contents being sold.

To find out more about the exemptions one of the UK's leading carrier bag manufacturers, Polybags, has published on their website a detailed guide on the carrier bag tax and who it affects.