Carton sector highlights UK packaging strategy flaw

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Sustainability Uk

A leading carton trade body has criticised the UK’s packaging strategy for failing to recognise the significance of renewable materials after a study found 90 per cent of consumers said packing should contain them.

The Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment (ACE) UK said it was disappointed that the packaging strategy published by the UK Government last summer did not reflect the significance of the role that renewable materials would play in a future low carbon economy. Renewable materials are those that can be replaced or replenished at a rate equivalent or greater than their use, with minimal environmental damage.

The association, which represents UK suppliers of cartons to the food and beverage industries, was reacting after its survey of 1001 supermarket shoppers revealed nine out of ten believed packaging should contain sustainable resources. The poll also showed 68 per cent thought it was important to know what packaging is made from, while 71 per cent of respondents wanted a more detailed evaluation of the environmental performance of the products they buy.

Out of step

ACE commissioned the research in the wake of the publication of the Government’s 2030 food strategy which calls for food to be “produced, processed and distributed…in ways which use global natural resources sustainably”.

ACE UK chairman Richard Hands told the group welcomed the focus on the sustainability of food and drink but regretted this approach had not been included in Defra’s packaging initiative. While consumers are concerned about the recyclability of packaging, they also want packing to contain renewable materials to help save depletion of non-sustainable resources, he said.

“This demonstrates that the packaging strategy not only appears to contradict the food strategy on the significant contribution that renewable materials can make to a low carbon economy, but it is also out of step with consumer opinion,”​ added Hands.

ACE welcomed the publication of a packing strategy but questioned its overwhelming focus on post-use measures to recycle high carbon impact materials at the expense of taking a more holistic, whole life-cycle perspective – starting with the basic resources used to construct the packaging in the first place.

Equal merit

Hands said: “The strategy must recognise the benefits of independently certified renewable materials and we would argue very strongly these should be given equal merit in future strategies. We should not allow this to be ignored because society will survive based on it ability to use renewable resources.”

Cartons are made primarily from wood fibre. Major players in the carton industry have been making huge efforts to establish their green credentials in recent years. Sig Combibloc announced earlier this month it had had achieved certification for a continuous chain of custody (CoC) at all its production sites world-wide in accordance with the criteria of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Last year, Tetra Pak said that 75 per cent - 1.5bn - of its cartons on sale in the UK and Ireland would become FSC-certified as using paperboard sourced from certified forests and other controlled sources by October 2010.

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