Following the paper chain

14 December 2010

I had a fascinating day recently at the House of Commons in London, where members of the Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) and the Sheet Plant Association gathered to lobby MPs about certain issues that they feel should be tackled by government.

Representatives of companies involved in the corrugated packaging industry were there in force to put across the important part that this sustainable material plays in protecting products, and the extent to which it is recycled, among other things. A constant stream of MPs visited the room reserved for the event, and CPI members and I had a chance to chat one-to-one with them about the burning issues concerning the manufacturing industry in general in the UK, as well as specific topics related to the corrugated sector.

It was an opportune time to stage the event, as there is uncertainty about the policies to be adopted by the relatively new government; but in the event, it seems that this Parliament has a positive attitude towards packaging. Dan Rogerson, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on packaging, said: “It’s vital you stay in business, and that you keep innovating, responding to the needs of your customers. We’ve got to keep reminding society of the importance of packaging and that it performs a range of functions.”

Clive Bowers, Chairman of the CPI Corrugated Sector, replied on behalf of the industry with a briefing to MPs on the importance of corrugated packaging and provided them with a list of action points for the future, including:

¦ Tacking food waste as a matter of urgency as its environmental impact is 10 times greater than that of packaging;

¦ Ensuring the quality of recycled materials, which are vital for the manufacture of new boxes; and

¦ Putting in place energy policies to ensure economic and reliable supply for the long term.

In conversation, other points were raised at the lobbying session, including the lack of separation facilities for different types of materials; and the EU’s proposed height restrictions of lorries, which would have serious implications for UK transporters.

The CPI stressed that corrugated packaging is an essential industry, without which the FMCG industry would not be able to function. It is a service industry that supports a very broad base, with a turnover in the UK of around £1.4 billion/year and employs 10,000 nationally. It makes up some 30% of the UK packaging industry.

Corrugated has an excellent recycling record, with more than 80% being recycled – the highest rate for any UK packaging material, according to the CPI. “The recycling infrastructure is so good that fibre can be back on shelf as a new box in fewer than 14 days,” says the CPI. Paper is a sustainable resource and European company-owned forests used for papermaking have sustainable forest management certificates.

Pira International’s new report on paper of all types shows that the sustainable paper demand is set to grow over the next six years. In Pira’s feature this month it is clear that things have changed enormously over time. In the 1950s, after the austerity of the War, there was very little concern or awareness about the environment, and the potential damage we could do with packaging that was not recyclable or sustainable. Trees were chopped down and not replaced; there was an excitement about the new types of plastics that could be produced; and we lived in an altogether ‘throw-away’ society.

Things have certainly changed for the better, but efforts must continue in all sectors of converting and packaging to make sure that research continues into lightweighting, recycling and all the other initiatives that will secure a sustainable future.

As this difficult year draws to a close, I would just like to take the opportunity to wish all our loyal readers and advertisers a very Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Maureen Byrne


Maureen Byrne

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