NEWS & INSIGHT FROM THE FPA
PLASTIC STRAWS BAN TO GO AHEAD
Defra has confirmed the plastic straws ban will go ahead from 1 October. It should have come into effect in April, however we negotiated a delay due to increased medical demands during the pandemic. Importantly it has been agreed the supply chain has until 31 March 2021 to use up stocks. The previously negotiated decision to allow foodservice operators, caterers, bars and clubs to hold stocks behind the counter and make available to their customers on request still applies. Customers do not have to give a reason for wanting a plastic straw but the straws must be stored so as not to be visible to the public or offered as an option to customers either verbally or in print. There is also an exemption for medical use. We asked Defra to clarify the position for NHS purchases which are used in hospital staff canteens and they have confirmed the ban is only exempt for medical use, so hospital canteens are not exempt, just as prisons, care homes and schools are also not exempt. Straws will be allowed tethered to beverage containers until 3 July 2021. Defra’s guidance links went live today and can be viewed here. We urge you to forward the links to your customers.
REPORT SHOWS GREATER RISKS OF CROSS CONTAMINATION WITHIN REUSE SYTEMS
A report by Professor David McDowell, Emeritus Professor of Food Studies at the University of Ulster, commissioned by European Paper Packaging Alliance (EPPA), concluded the transfer of foodborne disease ‘remains a clear and present hazard to consumers and that there are greater risks of cross contamination within circular reuse systems, than in single use systems.’ Professor McDowell was asked to conduct a review of the food hygiene challenges of replacing single use foodservice items with reusable ones.
The report reviews the risks of increased foodborne disease associated with the wider use of reusables in the absence of improved understanding and hygienic practices. The report advises ‘because reuse systems are more complex than single use systems due to multi-location cleaning, sanitation, storage and transport, they lead to greater risks of cross contamination’. Professor McDowell noted that ‘banning or reducing the use of foodservice packaging, in the absence of radical and unprecedented changes in good hygiene practice, will lead to greater persistence and circulation of foodborne pathogens within the human food chain, and increased risks of human foodborne illness in our community’.
Consumer activities regarding reusables are not protected by the food safety legislation and inspection systems which apply across the rest of food production. The report notes the amount of public health research in this area has declined because nearly all retail food is currently effectively protected within single use plastic or paper packaging. However there are growing concerns among food safety and public health agencies about the increasing number of significant outbreaks of foodborne illness related to unpackaged fruit and vegetables.
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, ‘In situations where reusing multiuse items can cause foodborne illness to consumers, single use disposable packaging must be used.’ The full report can be read here.
Adrian Pratt of Benders attended the Welsh Assembly webinar on the Beyond Recycling consultation last week and kindly sent the following summary:
There were 220 written responses to the consultation and the general view is that the pandemic has spawned a new form of localism where community is everything. This covers areas such as local support, sharing excess food stuffs and repurposing unwanted clothing and bicycles. All the views will contribute to the new Welsh policy that is scheduled to be published at the end of the year.
The need for carbon reduction was highlighted on numerous occasions. Whilst recycling is necessary, the desire is to is to avoid the need to, and to change the culture and behaviour of citizens so the reuse becomes the new norm. An objective is to make Wales ‘zero plastic to landfill’, but there is concern and confusion over bio-plastics and also the subjectivity of what ‘unnecessary’ plastics constitute. Demonisation of plastic should be avoided. Equally, the future of incineration is uncertain
To enable Wales to become zero waste, and net zero carbon, it is realised that this cannot be achieved in isolation, but is cross-nation, and Wales will need to work with partners, but will set ambitious objectives for itself and take responsibility for the delivery.
There was very little reference to single use.
PLASTICS PACT UPDATE
WRAP held a meeting last week to update members of the UK Plastics Pact, of which the FPA is a member. The main theme was flexibles/films which will see all retailers asked to provide collection facilities and to promote the availability of collection bins. With a recycling rate of 4% there is much work to be done. The aim is that by October 2022, 10% of UK flexible and film tonnage will be collected from stores. By the end of this year there will be guidelines for mechanical recycling. Producers and retailers will be encouraged to review their packaging portfolios against the guidelines.
The use of the word ’scrunchy plastics’ has been used to describe flexibles but a consumer survey conducted by WRAP found the term to be the least favoured word to describe these plastics. The recent BBC War on Plastics programme was referenced. WRAP receive many letters and emails from the public. Although the show covered plastic/coronavirus and sandwich packs, by far the majority of messages from the public concerned tea bags which were also featured. Is it possible by including tea bags in the show the spotlight was taken away from sandwich packs? With the development of collection facilities at stores for films, is there a possibility of a similar scheme for sandwich packs?
PACKAGING FEDERATION MEETING
- COVID: mention was made of unannounced visits from the Health & Safety Executive to check procedures are being followed with respect to Covid. It is interesting to note that where staff have had to shield, customers have not been sympathetic.
- EU EXIT: many businesses delivering to Northern Ireland have formed a working group to identify new procedures. Agreed the costs of exporting are going to increase substantially. An ECMT licence will be required for exports to the EU as well as a MRM number. The tariff for polymers will be 6%. The general advice is to build up stocks of raw materials before the end of the year. When exporting, the EU Timber Regulations
- SCOTLAND DRS: A business plan has been presented to the Scottish government by a consortium to be the system administrator. The consortium is believed to be the only applicant and is made up of leading soft drinks organisations and their trade associations.
- LITTER: There was much discussion on the litter element of EPR which will result in a huge bill for business. It is thought a calculation on packaging’s percentage share of litter will be produced and business will pay that share plus the cost of anti-litter communication and social disamenity. This is likely to be financially weighted towards the most littered items and the bulkiest. This means the mechanism for measuring litter is crucial. Any form of bias (even unintentionally) could result in a massive cost to our sector (EUTR) will apply to the pallets.
PLASTIC PARADOX VIDEO
This webinar from Dr Chris DeArmitt examines the research behind his book ‘The Plastic Paradox’ published in July. The book looks at popular opinion versus science and seeks to identify some of the myths surrounding plastic issues. Dr DeArmitt explains his methodology and checks the facts. Link here.
Food Packaging Forum reports that the European Environment Agency has published a report briefing on biodegradable and compostable plastics. Read here.
Business Green reports that packaging giant Mondi has announced a new trial to drastically improve recycling sorting processes. Read here.
Retail Gazette reports that Iceland has joined forces with campaigners Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, A Plastic Planet and Surfers Against Sewage to demand transparency across the wider retail business sector. Read here.
Circular Online reports that three-quarters of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. Read here.
Plastics Today reports that Loop Industries and Suez have got together to build the first ‘infinite loop’ recycling facility in Europe. Read here.
Packaging News reports that the environmental coalition of Wildlife and Countryside Link and RECOUP have criticised a new standard for biodegradation of polyolefins. Read here.
LBC carried an interview with a pub landlord talking about the struggle to run his business and how it won’t survive another lockdown. Read here.