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Time to call last orders on plastic packaging?

Phil Wild of James Cropper explains why brands should embrace the plastic packaging tax and seek sustainable alternatives

Phil Wild James Cropper

In April 2022, the government will enforce a plastic packaging tax which will mean companies have to pay £200 per tonne of plastic packaging that doesn't include at least 30 per cent recycled content. According to the government's budget documents, the tax will create greater demand for used material and in turn, stimulate increased levels of recycling and collection of plastic waste. This will divert waste away from landfill or incineration. 

The new legislation is a positive step in the fight against plastic waste and it's certainly prompting change by urging businesses to think differently - but should brands be preparing for more? Perhaps now is the time to think about a world where packaging is free from virgin plastic?

The introduction of this tax is the tipping point. Now on the government's agenda, and coupled with the fact that eco-credentials are increasingly influencing consumer buying decisions, it's likely that the minimum requirements for recycled content will increase year-on-year.

We are already seeing significant shifts in the amount of recycled plastic used in packaging. PepsiCo, Nestlé and Coca-Cola have all pledged their commitment and increased their use of recycled materials across the board. It feels like an opportunity to do better than the bare minimum, not just because it's the right thing, but because it makes commercial sense down the line.

And we're not just talking about those mainstream brands. When it comes to luxury in this sector, we're also seeing game-changing paper-based casings that cradle and protect the bottle. In a major step forward, champagne house Maison Ruinart worked with us to replace its gift boxes with 'Second Skin', a moulded casing made entirely from pulped paper.

The 'Second Skin' is a superb demonstration of where the future is headed. The ultra-light box is designed as a single piece of material, comprising two contoured halves that fold together along a double hinge. Maison Ruinart's premium, luxurious and quality proposition hasn't been compromised and compared to previous gift boxes, 'Second Skin' is nine times lighter and sees a 60 per cent reduction in carbon footprint.

This approach leads by example and shows the type of innovation that brands should be considering now, for the future. 'Second Skin' showcases the opportunities for planet-friendlier packaging solutions while also demonstrating how brands can marry their commitment to sustainable alternatives without compromising on a luxury experience.  

As signatories to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) Global Commitment, we are committed to helping brands reduce the amount of plastic they use by offering alternative paper-based solutions. 'Second Skin' was created using our latest innovation, Colourform, a thermoformed, plastic-free, moulded fibre packaging solution. 

As drink businesses continue to interrogate their sustainable credentials, it's encouraging to see this sector take action and government seeking to work more closely with the packaging industry to progress the development of a sustainable infrastructure around reuse and recycling.

The innovation, ideas and design in this sector, coupled with an enforced tax, should really drive change and if brands look to do more now, there is hope that we can all work towards achieving a world without waste.

11 December 2020