Lord Deben on Businesses and Plastic Packaging

Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has urged companies to avoid making “knee-jerk” decisions on plastic packaging whilst speaking at the Packaging Innovations Conference in London this month.

In an article by Edie.net, Lord Deben warned hundreds of packaging industry professionals that reactionary choices to consumer demands could lead to unintended environmental consequences.

He spoke about how there’s no “silver bullet” to replacing single-use plastic which would appease both consumers and policymakers in the short term while generating long-term sustainability benefits.

An example of this cited by Martin Kerch, the Food Service Packaging Association’s director, supermarket chain Morrisons, which was recently criticised for replacing single-use plastic bags in fruit and vegetable aisles with paper alternatives after a report by the Environmental Agency concluded that paper bags would need to be used at least three times to have a lower impact on climate change than plastic bags.

Sainsbury’s Head of Packaging, Jane Skelton addressed why Sainsbury’s had not moved to incorporating compostable alternatives or bioplastics into its packaging noting that there is work to be done before biodegradable or compostable materials could become mainstream in supermarkets.

She continued to say that compostable packaging being mixed with recycling causes problems for waste management companies and in terms of biodegradable packaging, there is uncertainty about the unintended consequences at the moment because she’s only seen alternatives that are not completely degradable.

Coca-Cola’s vice president for public affairs, Julian Hunt said there was another concern surrounding the term biodegradable. There’s potential for misinterpretation by consumers thinking the term could lead to an “open invitation for littering” under the false belief that it would quickly degrade.

He also told of his experience of being pitched a bottle that could allegedly dissolve in seawater, except for the fact that the sea water had to be at a constant temperature of 27C.

Simply Waste Solutions published an article discussing single-use plastics and their alternatives, which is most environmentally advantageous and what their environmental break-even point is. To read this, click here.