Love it or loathe it, packaging is here to stay and we cannot do without it, but we can do much to diminish the demand, annoyance and cost of disposal and environmental impact, and in this even the end user can play a role.

The pressure to cut packaging demand and increase recyclability will grow partly because packaging prices are set to rise says Mondi, a global packaging manufacturer, but who will be caught in the net? To find out, any user of packaging must find out if they are an ‘obligated packaging producer,’ who must follow rules that help them to reduce the amount of packaging used in the first place, reduce how much packaging waste goes into landfill, and increase the amount of packaging waste that is recycled and recovered.

Every year an obligated packaging producer must 1) register as a packaging producer by April 7th 2) meet their recovery and recycle obligation, 3) obtain evidence of compliance and 4) submit a certificate of compliance by January 31 the following year. An obligated packaging producer is one who handles at least 50 tonnes of packaging waste or material in the previous calendar year and whose turnover is at least £2 million a year.

While Britain has made big strides in techniques to comply with duty of care rules on packaging there is still much room for improvement. According to the Co-op, for example, two thirds of all plastic packaging used for consumer products in the UK is being sent to landfill or for incineration, with only the remaining one third being recycled. Part of the problem here is lack of public awareness on what can be recycled and lack of public recycling facilities but are the retailers/food producers not partly to blame for using excessive packaging in the first place? We have all seen in food supermarkets how much fresh food is placed on virgin and recycled paper trays and covered with plastic film, surely a superfluous cost that has nothing to do with product protection.

If overall demand for packaging is to be cut it is essential to look at the entire supply chain, because action in one part could create an adverse reaction in another. The whole business is so complex that it might be a smart move to bring in packaging technologists or specialist consultants because each industry has its own special problems, which do not end with the despatch of goods. Some manufacturers, like those in packaging production, inevitably generate a large amount of packaging waste for recycling so care is needed in the choice of balers and compactors to avoid underuse of lorries returning waste for recycling. At packaging giant Smurfit’s Neuberg plant, for example, investment in a new HSM high compression capacity baling press, the VK 7215, allows a 520 kg bale to replace an earlier press for 380 kg while keeping the same size of bale, thus sharply cutting transport costs. If the packaging waste is reasonably clean and the tonnage is high then balers would increase their ROI because stretch film, for example, could fetch up to £250 a tonne when market prices are high.