Cherishing plastic.

Author:Penhallow, John
Position:NARROW WEB Europe

In this column, your correspondent recently reported the death of IPEX, the packaging show that for many years was billed as Britain's answer to drupa. Now another UK show is aiming to rise up and take over the mantle. The combined Packaging Innovations, Empack and Label & Print Show took place at the end of February in the English Midlands city of Birmingham. Several label press manufacturers and a dozen or more UK label converters were among the 300 exhibitors, but the show's focus was further downstream, with major brand owners meeting with packaging suppliers.

A conference during the show focused on the pros and cons of plastic packaging. The argument against plastic was put by a manager of a major UK frozen food retailer:"We have been successful in finding alternative materials (to plastics) over the last 12 months and have developed plans to replace plastic across a vast range of products. However, with some of these materials costing between three and 10 times more than their plastic counterparts, cost remains one of the biggest challenges in our mission to create plastic-free packaging."

A spokesman for the British Plastics Federation predictably begged to differ. "The real issue is how we behave with plastic," he said. "Consistent collection and an aided circular economy will ensure that we are using this resource responsibly. We have to cherish plastic and put it back to work."

It is unusual, even in Europe, to hear anyone wanting to "cherish" plastic packaging, and a leading UK retailer was recently shot down in flames for protecting all its "bio" fruits in rigid (and non-recyclable) plastic shell cases. Anyone wanting the full story of how best to pack and preserve fresh fruits and vegetables can refer to the 50-page report put out in December 2018 by UK-based "WB-AP." Those who just want the bare bones can note that most--but not all--fruits benefit from being stored in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, but that, "The relative wastage rates of pre-packaged versus loose fruit and vegetables in store and at home are yet to be quantified."

So, on that measure the match must be considered a draw. The same report also rather cryptically reports that in Britain, "The total amount of fresh vegetable and salad waste in 2012 was in the region of 1.6 million metric tons, of which approximately 80% was food."

One wonders what the other 20% was. On a (slightly) more serious note, the British House of Commons was forced, following an...

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