Packaging Strategy: Defra’s document – Design Cognition opinion

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Firstly, I must say that it’s great news that we’ve finally got a strategy being developed for packaging in a low carbon economy – it’s a huge step forward.

The report suggests a move away “from weight-based to carbon-based (packaging waste) targets” taking in to account “whole life cycle impacts.” which is a bold move – but how will this be implemented and managed in a consistent manner?

There is mention of “Treating packaging waste as a valuable resource”. Yes, we should encourage:
“• more recycling by householders; with schemes that collect all the main packaging materials” (but let’s get UK wide consistency and make it easier for consumers to differentiate & sort!). As Dick Searle points out (see Packaging News below), “recyclability is not the problem – 85% of packaging is recyclable, while just 35% of packaging is actually recycled.”
“• local authorities and businesses treating waste packaging as a resource, leading to more recycling by businesses” (Yes, most businesses will respond to cash incentives for recycling schemes but we should not lose sight of other ways of processing waste and think of latent energy recovery/capture.  Efforts should be given to an all encompassing sustainability policy/programme – i don’t see any mention of that anywhere! – or have I missed something?)

As a footnote, I’d like to say that anything that enables consumers to appreciate the benefits of packaging and stop seeing it only as ‘waste’, is a good thing. I also think that we are in dire need of a government strategy on ‘Food Waste’ = otherwise we are missing a ‘big trick’ here. Around 30% of all food purchased is thrown away. If it wasn’t packaged (to extend its shelf life) that figure would probably be over 50%.

So we will continue to work on innovation for our sustainability projects, reducing and minimising wherever we can, as consumers demand, but we must not lose sight of the need for choice and convenience.

What do you think? Have your say in the comments below….

Related articles:

Hilary Benn unveils long-awaited Packaging Strategy June 2009

If you want to read the full version of the DEFRA report, you can download it here:

Defra Packaging Strategy – full version

If you’d like to read the opinions of other packaging industry ‘experts’ you can find them here:

 Packaging News – article on Defra Strategy – Various Industry Views


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