14 June 2022

It’s a wrap for plastic

We don’t mean to be rude, but have you had a good look at your packaging lately? In case you’re confused, we’re talking plastics, not your snappy clubbing clobber. And if the answer is no, it’s time to sit up and take note, because it’s the hot topic on all smart business agendas.

Ever since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet shamed the world into action, and Forbes reported that there were 3.4 trillion units of packaging produced in 2016, 92% for food and drink alone, it’s made excellent business sense to green-up sharpish.

To underline the point, Birmingham’s NEC is hosting the PPMA Total Show 2022 – the major UK event for the packaging industry. Okay, we get it – they haven’t got Tom Cruise delivering a speech (although if they got a lookalike in, it might be fun), but they do have a lot to say about packaging and why it’s of such mega-importance for businesses and our planet.

That’s because this year the focus is on sustainable packaging.

The PPMA have reported that everyone from business giants like Coca-Cola and Unilever, to the smallest niche online artisans are committing to sustainability. And with brilliant substitutes for ocean-clogging materials available, like biodegradable bioplastic, there’s just no excuse anymore.

Tesco recently announced that it’s removed more than one and a half billion pieces of plastic from its UK business since it launched its 4Rs – Remove, Reduce Reuse, Recycle – packaging strategy. This has seen them kiss goodbye to more than 200 million bags and 42 million plastic forks from prepared food, as well as hundreds of millions of plastic trays, straws, lids, wrapping and even the sleeves from greetings cards.

Tesco’s is a story of a determination to do the right thing, and it’s paid off with swathes of great publicity, and an admiring new generation of customers who are sick of the wasteful habits of the past. Tesco kick started its initiative by handing its suppliers a list of preferred materials that can be easily recycled. It then underlined its position by announcing that it reserved the right to no longer stock products in excessive packaging or hard-to-recycle materials, while at the same time offering support to suppliers to develop sustainable solutions.

As if that wasn’t enough, in September last year, in partnership with Loop, Tesco began trialling a range of food, drink, household and beauty products in reusable packaging, which could be returned to the store after use to be cleaned, refilled and reused.

Other supermarkets are also hot on the sustainability trend, with Morrison’s having long ago switched to recycled paper bags, and Waitrose stocking compostable versions for fruit and veg.

It’s also a relief to see that delivery giant Amazon has stopped packaging products in single-use plastic delivery bags and envelopes in its distribution network in the UK. This includes items sold by Amazon and third-party selling partners that use Fulfilment By Amazon (FBA), eliminating a whopping one million tons of packaging material. They’ve also introduced innovative paper padded mailers that recycle while taking up less space in transit and in the recycling bin.

But probably the biggest take-home for all businesses embarking on the sustainable packaging journey is to announce it loud and proud. Because one thing’s for sure, customers not only love these green alternatives, but they want other people to know they’re using them too. With this in mind, savvy brands are wearing their eco-credentials in proud big letters on planet-friendly wrapping. This isn’t just something for the biggies in the business world – it’s for everyone to get involved in.

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