With the UK’s landfills reaching breaking point, businesses can expect the Government’s onus on Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) to dramatically increase in the near future. Matthew Botfield, corporate social responsibility manager at Antalis, urges businesses to act now and reveals how they can adapt and consolidate their packaging operations to reduce their packaging waste levy.

The packaging dilemma presents one of the most complex environmental issues facing the modern business world.

Nearly all businesses selling goods will need packaging to get their product from A to B. Some businesses may even need specialist packaging; be it, food packaging to ensure their product arrives fresh, or an innovative solution for engineering parts which could otherwise be highly vulnerable to damage.

This demand, has escalated with e-commerce. If a consumer is buying something on the High Street they will take away less packaging.

Products bought online, however, tend to have far more in order to ensure they arrive safely.

Added to this, in some sectors packaging has become an incredibly important branding tool. Take, for example, Coca Cola’s personalised branding campaign which saw the packaging overtake the product as consumers scrambled to get a beverage with their name.

The UK alone produces more than 170 million tonnes of waste every year, much of it food packaging – and an increasingly large percentage of this is plastic, with some kinds taking 450 years to break down. Therefore businesses are under increasing pressure to reduce their packaging and up recycling.

This was seen in the launch of the UK Packaging Waste Regulations in 2007. As part of these changes, obligated packaging producers (those that have handled over 50 tonnes of packaging materials in the last year and have a turnover of above £2million) are required to provide a financial incentive to the packaging recycling industry to collect and reprocess (or export for reprocessing elsewhere) sufficient material to meet targets.

This evidence takes the form of a Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) or Packaging Export Recovery Note (PERN) which is a documented proof that the packaging material has been recovered or recycled by an accredited company. For many, this can add up to thousands of pounds each year. But the costs don’t end there. April saw landfill taxes rise from £84.40 to £86.10 per tonne, with further increases planned next April and beyond. This is in addition to a gate fee given to cover the capital and maintenance costs of the landfill operator.

The good news is that it has had the desired effect. According to the Environment Agency, 2016 saw packaging recycling and recovery increasing by 766,718 tonnes compared to the previous 12 months. Recovery PRNs had a similar boost – rising by 61% in 2016.

There is still work to be done and the consensus is that further tax increases could come into play. Therefore, the recommendation is for businesses to take stock now, ensuring they use less packaging and recycle more.

In terms of recommendations, the first step should be to understand just how much packaging you are wasting by conducting a thorough analysis of your packaging and current waste levels. This will usually reveal areas for easy ways to reduce packaging.

As part of this, it is always worth analysing sales patterns to avoid over-ordering and making the switch to just-in-time delivery to ensure you only store the minimum amount of stock so that surplus material doesn’t go to waste.

Other measures such as sending unused materials to head office to be recycled or returning used clothes hangers can make a huge difference. Replacing plastic crates or totes with single-use cardboard boxes will also reduce your corrugated count, while using self-stacking boxes or crates instead of shrink-wrap can minimise the use of plastic materials.

Spending time educating staff and raising awareness about your business’ waste policy and procedures can also pay dividends.

At Antalis, we recommend that any packaging solution must offer the right balance between cost, performance and environmental impact. It is no use, say, using limited packaging on a product only for it be delivered damaged and have to be resent – meaning not only double the material but twice the carbon footprint.

Equally, some businesses tend to the go the other extreme, using various types of packaging and lots of it, when just one solution should suffice.


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