The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee has called for the government to focus on reducing all single use packaging – not just plastic – in its latest report on plastic food and drink packaging.
The Committee, which looked specifically at food and drink packaging, identified a number of recommendations, including a review of reusable and refillable packaging systems to determine what works and where intervention might be appropriate. This should include an assessment of the environmental impact of reusable packaging, such as how many times items would need to be used before they became more beneficial than single use packaging.
The report also calls on the government to clarify how it intends to ensure that banning single use plastics does not lead to worse overall environmental outcomes, particularly with regards to carbon emissions. In addition, Parliament should lead by example, with the ambition to remove single use packaging from all its catering facilities.
In its consideration of government proposals outlined in the Resources and Waste strategy, the committee supported the drive to improve recycling rates with extended producer responsibility, a Deposit Return Scheme and consistency in recycling collections. It has also called for a modulated plastic packaging tax, with lower fees for higher levels of recycled content and believes that imported, filled packaging should not be exempt from the tax as this could damage UK manufacturing.
Neil Parish MP, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, commented: “We all know that plastic pollution of our rivers and seas is a huge problem. However, replacing plastic with other materials isn’t always the best solution, as all materials have an environmental impact.
“My committee is also concerned that compostable plastics have been introduced without the right infrastructure or consumer understanding about how to dispose of them. Fundamentally, substitution is not the answer, and we need to look at ways to cut down on single use packaging.
Clarity Environmental’s Head of Sustainable Business, Jimmy Dorrell, welcomed the committee’s call for more reliable data:
“Accurate data is vital for businesses to make informed decisions about their packaging, and accurately assess the impact these changes will have. Plastic has become the number one eco-villain, and in the rush to eliminate it from product packaging, we’ve seen businesses make poor decisions that are not only worse for the environment, but also pose a huge reputation risk.
“Whilst action is important, businesses must first fully analyse the lifecycle of packaging to get the best outcomes for the environment and business; questioning if packaging can be eliminated or reduced, and considering the environmental impact of alternatives before taking further steps.”
We can help our packaging compliance members to make changes to packaging and avoid the future costs of inaction. We will look at your data, the packaging you use and the opportunities for reducing the impact of packaging. Get in touch to find out how our team can help you prepare for the changes ahead.