Plastic predictions - trends and sustainable plastic packaging

Packaging Professional magazine
20 Jan 2014
Plastic bottles for recycling

The UK packaging industry gathered to discuss the industry’s future at the Plastics in Packaging event, held in London, UK. Rhiannon Garth Jones has some of the highlights.

Peter Davis, Chairman of the British Plastics Federation, opened the conference with some cautionary remarks about upcoming challenges for the industry, particularly the decreasing amount of landfill available to store waste in the UK and the ‘almost impossible-to-reach’ Defra targets. The main focus of the day, however, was how providers and consumers relate to issues of sustainability in packaging.

On key trends
Paul Jenkins, of the PackHub, observed that legislation from Defra was driving current processes, and highlighted six key trends dominating the industry - 

  • Sustainability – the necessity of communicating different approaches to the consumer, such as the importance of lightweighting.
  • On-the-go lifestyle – the need to recognise opportunities such as cup holders in cars, for which a variety of consumable products are now designed to fit.
  • Healthy living – the success of companies such as Innocent, UK, in making their packaging match their core message.
  • Convenience – the importance of packaging that minimises mess, for example easy-pour sugar and resealable cereal packs.
  • Authenticity and trust – the ability of the internet and social media to intensify brand failures makes brand reinforcement more important than ever, and packaging can play a key role in this.
  • Value for money – the rise in popularity of budget-end supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl, particularly among the middle class, reinforce the need for cost-effective packaging.

On sustainability
BPF Public and Industrial Affairs Director Philip Law warned that the proposed EU strategy on plastics waste could prove damaging to the industry and cautioned against complacency. He was especially concerned about the lack of understanding of different types of plastics and the focus on punitive measures.

Andrew Jenkins of pharmacist Boots, UK, spoke about the firm’s focus on the lifecycle of a product when considering sustainability, and also discussed the varying priorities of consumers. He warned that ‘a singular focus on carbon could be misleading or result in shifting environmental burdens to other indicator', an opinion that was welcomed by delegates.

Adding to this, Clare Shrewsbury, Packaging Programme Manager at WRAP, UK, explained that as part of the Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan the organisation had opened a call for project ideas to be submitted by industry partners, and was now supporting six new projects.

Plastics Industry Recycling Action Plan projects are scheduled to be completed by 31 May 2014. For more information, visit

WRAP currently has six projects underway

Design for Recyclability
Aim: to give supermarkets the option of recyclable design prior to order
Output: excel model, report, case studies

Packaging Related Product Damage Mapping
Aim: to map failures in primary, secondary and tertiary packaging
Output: a standardised methodology and case studies

Improve Pack Design to Avoid Food Waste
Aim: to prevent food waste at home
Output: final report and recommendations

Secondary Packaging Benchmarking
Aim: to benchmark secondary packaging based on weight, carbon and recycled content
Output: a comparative information source for signatories

Demonstration Trial Black Plastic Trays
Aim: to prove the validity of WRAP’s work on black plastic trays
Output: a report and dissemination

Demonstration Trial MRF Glass
Aim: to develop a business case to show that glass from materials recycling facilities (MRF) can be remelted
Output: a report and dissemination