PwC report investigates sustainability in packaging

The UK packaging industry is calling for the phrase ‘sustainable packaging’ to be scrapped and is urging instead for government to get to grips with the real issues affecting the industry, according to a recently released report.

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The UK packaging industry is calling for the phrase ‘sustainable packaging’ to be scrapped and is urging instead for government to get to grips with the real issues affecting the industry, according to a recently released report. A national shortage of packaging technicians, fears over scarcity of raw material supplies and a lack of political will to tackle the core issues were all voiced in the PwC report “Sustainable Packaging: Myth or Reality.” 

Leading retailers, manufacturers and consumer groups including the Packaging Federation, INCPEN, Diageo, Boots, P&G, Nestle and Rexam also unanimously agreed that the much used sustainable packaging phrase should be phased out and the focus should be on ensuring packaging delivers maximum sustainability throughout the entire supply chain and is recoverable after use.

PwC’s global sustainability leader, Malcolm Preston, said: “The conclusions in the report show how fast-paced the industry is in developing new technologies and the use of exciting materials but we need to stop using the phrase sustainable packaging. The industry is working towards efficient products, efficient packaging, efficient transport and efficient end of life solutions.

“Plant derived plastics from non petro-chemical sources will be part of the mix, along with intelligent packaging and the drive will be to make the entire supply chain more efficient. It is time now for Government and industry to engage in a cycle of collaboration to tackle the issues raised in our report.”

Jane Bickerstaffe, Chief Executive of INCPEN, an international packaging research organisation said a shortage of skilled packaging technicians in the UK is becoming a problem. She commented: “The industry is streets ahead of the Government in the work it is doing but politicians are only interested in packaging once its lifecycle has ended. Government needs to understand it isn’t all about recycling. Packaging only makes up around 5% of landfill waste and 2% of greenhouse gas emissions and issues such as food waste should be much bigger concerns.”

Her views were echoed by Dick Searle, who heads up the Packaging Federation. He said: “We welcome this report and it is quite a brave step for the industry to admit that sustainable packaging doesn’t actually exist.  It is no more than a red herring. The next step is for us to work to ensure we have a resource efficient economy and tackle the rise in consumption and appalling levels of food waste.”


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