Most of you will have seen on TV, or read about in the press, the problems that plastic packaging is causing, particular in polluting our oceans. I was horrified to read a recent German study that reported that microplastic contamination was found in all 24 beer brands that they tested, as well as in honey and sugar. So much for the German purity laws (Reinheitsgebot) which states that beer can only be made from three ingredients – barley, hops and water!
Pro Carton has been advocating for some time that brand owners should use a sustainable material rather than a non-sustainable one wherever they can and welcomes strong measures to encourage the use of truly sustainable packaging materials. The European Union are about to publish their plastics strategy whilst the UK Government have announced they are considering a tax on some plastic packaging. A quick glance along a supermarket aisle highlights the many brands that are using plastic packaging when they could use cartons. From tea bags and batteries, to multipack drinks and stationery, not to mention food products, there are a wealth of goods that could be packaged in more environmentally friendly packaging and reduce or eliminate the amount of plastic used.
It is encouraging that our message is clearly starting to get support from other influential parties. Andy Clarke, former CEO of Asda, called for strong measures in The Guardian newspaper recently saying that “the only solution was for retailers to reject plastic entirely in favour of more sustainable alternatives like paper, steel, glass and aluminium”. Similarly, Greenpeace’s Louise Edge said that Government could “innovate out of this mess by incentivising sustainable alternatives to plastics”.
It’s perhaps worth reminding everyone, especially those outside the carton industry, that lightweighting or even recycling, in themselves, do not achieve sustainability. For packaging to be sustainable (please check the dictionary definition) it must be renewable. Sustainable plastic is, quite simply, nonsense. Cartons are not only renewable but fully recyclable and biodegradable, truly sustainable, and a perfect example of the principle of the circular economy.
To help us spread our message we have appointed a public relations agency, Storm Communications, to work across Europe and they are already starting to get good coverage in a variety of trade publications and on social media.
Forward thinking brand owners will surely already be reviewing their own environmental strategies in a move towards using more renewable and recyclable packaging before there is a consumer backlash against non-essential use of plastic. If they don’t, Governments will surely act and consumers will vote with their wallets.