As you're undoubtedly already aware, the Plastic Packaging Tax is being introduced in April 2022. While this may sound a long way off, it's important to be prepared and make sure you're clear on how to meet recycling targets.
The tax will be on plastic packaging made in or imported into the UK that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic, aimed at reducing the negative environmental impact of 2 million tonnes of plastic packaging used each year, a large amount of which is made from virgin plastic.
There is still a lot of confusion around sustainable packaging and recycling; with this in mind, we've busted three common myths to help you understand the facts around plastic packaging.
Myth 1: Glass is a more sustainable packaging choice than plastic
While glass is increasingly being favoured as a container material (Coca-Cola reported a 14% increase in glass bottle sales in 2018), it's not as environmentally friendly as you might think. Glass containers are heavier and more easily breakable than plastic, making them less convenient to transport in bulk.
Uncontaminated glass is a perfect circular economy material, it can be recycled over and over again, but what happens when it gets too contaminated to be recycled into food or drink containers? This is a problem Veolia helped solve in 2017 by working in partnership with Knauf Insulation. Veolia has developed a high-tech glass recycling facility in St. Helens, North West England, which is able to turn glass into energy-saving insulation - an example of the innovative approach that can help a material become part of a sustainable, closed loop process.
Myth 2: Food without packaging is a better choice
In an ideal world, all food would be sold loose, free from any disposable packaging. However, the reality is that food needs packaging to preserve it. According to WRAP, the resultant food waste from abolishing packaging would have a bigger carbon footprint than the packaging itself generates.
Food also needs to be packaged properly to get to us in the first place. Thanks to our taste for exotic foods all year round in Britain, food needs to be packaged securely in order for it to still be edible by the time it reaches the end of the supply chain. An example of this is cucumbers - research has shown that a shrink-wrapped cucumber can last more than three times as long as an unwrapped one.
Myth 3: Most packaging is unnecessary
We have all had the experience of being frustrated by extraneous packaging. Understandably, this has led to the misconception that nearly all packaging is needless.
As well as protecting the product, packaging is key to maximising loads in logistics vehicles, reducing its fuel miles and carbon footprint. The delivery process itself accounts for a large part of the product's environmental impact, not just the packaging in which it arrives.
Making your packaging sustainable
Of course, the best option is to ensure your packaging is as environmentally friendly as possible, regardless of where your product is travelling to or how much packaging it needs.
This is where Veolia can help. Our Sustainable Packaging Academy offers a complete solution, from guidance on making your packaging more sustainable to development of a bespoke recycling solution. We'll even test your packaging in our state-of-the-art recycling facilities, and help you ensure that it meets new regulations.