LETTER TO THE RT HON GEORGE EUSTICE MP
Rt Hon George Eustice MP, Secretary of State, Defra
16 April 2020
The Role of Single Use Packaging
As the trade association representing producers, distributors and users of single use packaging used to serve food and drink out of home, we feel the experiences over the last few weeks with regard to the public’s preferences for food items served in single-use packaging rather than reusables greatly reflects the hygiene benefits and feeling of safety and security only this type of packaging can provide both to consumers and those serving food and drink. This is strongly reflected in the huge increase in demand for items such as plastic plates, wrapped plastic cutlery, expanded polystyrene cups & containers and plastic straws from the NHS, care homes and institutions who view these items as part of their management against the spread of the virus.
We ask that going forward the hygiene and safety role of these items is fully recognised in environmental policy and future legislation. Had the various bans proposed been in force in 2019 then none of these high demand items would have been available from UK suppliers and would have required direct import from overseas suppliers mainly based in China and the Far East. The global demand for these items has greatly increased so a ban will exert a major impact on price as well as availability. We also wonder whether a policy of banning items followed by high imports resulting from any future pandemic is a policy that makes perfect sense.
We are not seeking to reverse proposed policies but simply wish to ensure you acknowledge the hygiene benefits of single-use products in policy statements and take them into account so that we are in a position to fulfil and manage supply to all key sectors at short notice.
Plastic straws represent a very good example where producers are needing to respond to strong medical demand at the same time as having to run down stocks as a consequence of the ban in England scheduled to commence in April 2020. We therefore welcome the decision to delay the ban in England until October however the reaction from NGOs, who are unlikely to be aware of the increased demands for single use items from those most closely dealing with the virus, has been to mistakenly criticise this decision.
In order to help the public, including NGOs, understand the role single use items have in helping to control the spread of the virus and to encourage those producers who are working around the clock to supply the NHS and others we would greatly appreciate a letter acknowledging the role single use items are playing in limiting the spread of the virus. We believe this will also help to avoid media criticism of delays to consultation and legislation.
We also ask you to take into account the many packaging converters who in response to NHS requests for PPE have converted their production facilities to do so. This amounts to a Herculean effort to turn around production facilities in such a short time and will also involve significant costs when reconverting back to normal production using the same materials which will be taxed from April 2021.
As mentioned we are not seeking to take advantage of the current situation but rather wish the practicalities in dealing with demand requirements resulting from the virus are recognised.
Executive Director, Foodservice Packaging Association