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Definition and development of functional barriers for the use of recycled materials in multilayer food packaging

TECHNOLOGICAL WATCH

Type of information: NEWS

In this section, you can access to the latest technical information related to the BANUS project topic.

BPF: ‘We are very disturbed’ by PM’s plastics purge

The British Plastics Federation has fired back at the Prime Minister's broadside on plastic packaging, after Theresa May announced plans to rid the economy of single use plastics by 2042. 

The government has set a 25 year plan to set up a circular economy in single use plastics, and even suggested supermarkets set up a 'plastic free aisle'. 

May said: "We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals into rivers was ever the right thing to do." She continued to describe plastics waste as "one of the great environmental scourges of our time."

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The shrinkwrapped cucumber - it may last a fortnight in the fridge, but what price the cling wrap? 

A statement from the British Plastics Federation countered: "The UK plastics industry shares the objective of minimising plastics waste through maximising recycling. The calls for evidence provide an opportunity to bring about much-needed reform of the regulatory regime currently governing packaging recovery and recycling to nurture a full-blooded domestic recycling culture that is not dependent upon the export of waste for recycling overseas.

The government’s commitment to provide a higher level of funding for plastics innovation is welcome. The UK plastics industry invented the global plastics industry and a whole pipeline of innovations, including the discovery of polyethylene, have made it a leading player in the global plastics industry. However, we are very disturbed that the tone of language used in the speech does not recognise the important benefits that the plastics industry brings to the UK, including 170,000 jobs.

Plastics themselves save energy. They are low carbon materials, crucial in the fight against climate change. Their light weight and durability cuts fuel consumption in vehicles and aircraft and reduces pollution. They provide protection for products and prevent food waste. By encouraging plastic-free aisles, the government is creating an impression that the use of plastics is inherently wrong. Typically, food waste in stores increases by a third without packaging. For example, a wrapped cucumber lasts 14 more days than one that is not. Cutting out plastic packaging for fresh produce will actually harm the environment through increased CO2 emissions because the energy used to produce food is much greater than in the packaging protecting it.

Plastics should not be in the sea and it is right that the UK, alongside other developed nations, should set an example of best practice. As has been pointed out, the vast quantity of plastics in the seas arrive there from the less developed economies of Asia, which have rudimentary waste management systems. Plastics get into the seas by a number of routes and each route needs to be dealt with separately. 

To stop plastics entering the sea from the West, the plastics industry would like to see a tougher stance on littering. It is highly doubtful that simply providing alternative materials will actually reduce littering in the UK, as this is an issue of personal behaviour. It should be noted that the types of products that enter the marine environment from the UK tend to be those that have been irresponsibly littered — not packaging materials for fresh produce that are typically consumed at home and then disposed of responsibly.

We look forward to working with government to help the UK progress towards a truly circular economy by helping to reduce littering, significantly increasing recycling infrastructure, ensuring all packaging used for food and drink consumed ‘on the go’ is captured for recycling, encouraging design for recyclability and the use of recycled materials in new low carbon products."

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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