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In defence of plastic packaging manufacturers

Graham Kershaw, owner of Macpac, on why he feels packaging manufacturers are being wrongly vilified in the press

In defence of plastic packaging manufacturers

Graham Kershaw

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The bête noir of the modern world has suddenly taken on a new and more hateful persona. The sometimes misinformed media and public have been venting their spleen on what they see as a deliberate and recklessly unsustainable way of life, much of it aimed at packaging manufacturers and suppliers.

We feel that we should shout about our integrity. As an industry, we are subject to very strict regulation with regards to the supply of food-grade packaging, while monitoring our waste streams and energy consumption.

We currently use materials which are not only 100 per cent recyclable but are also made from over 80 per cent recycled materials. In a lot of cases the reason that we don’t use 100 per cent recycled materials is due to a requirement to satisfy food-grade standards of cleanliness and hygiene. 

As with all processes, thermoforming generates a certain degree of waste, however 100 per cent of this waste is granulated and returned to our suppliers for reprocessing, allowing us to reuse this material again and again.

Our energy usage is closely monitored, not just for environmental reasons but also for obvious commercial reasons. The more energy we waste, the more our costs increase, and the less competitive we become. To permit us to stay competitive we have invested in the latest machinery with the latest efficiencies, allowing our prices to be as low as possible. It is clear that the market will therefore dictate that energy-efficient businesses will survive in the long term.

Supermarkets will argue that, rather than creating food waste, packaging actually reduces waste by protecting the product in transit and on the shelf. They will also claim that security is required to stop the product being pilfered. So does a high level of packaging around a product make the manufacturer the villain? If it wasn’t needed, the first thing that would happen is that costs would be reduced and plastics usage would fall.

What about overpackaging, and the question of who drives the market for overpackaging? If consumers see an Easter egg in a brown paper bag or a nicely designed pack, which one will they choose? This question can be applied to a million different products across every market imaginable. In every case the answer to the question is clear and this perfectly illustrates how the consumer–producer partnership is crucial.

There has been a lot of talk in the press about biodegradable plastics, but it makes no sense whatsoever to invest in industrial processes to compost biodegradable plastics when it is more resource efficient to invest in recycling conventional plastics for reuse.

Plastics have an important role to play in our society, which cannot easily be changed, so it is up to us all to educate and be educated about responsible usage.

Wrap (The Waste & Resources Action Programme) recently announced a new collaborative plastics initiative that will bring businesses together to take voluntary action. It has the full backing of the government and is included in the 25 Year Environment Plan.

At Macpac we already adhere to these ambitious plans and have done for years. So come on, let’s all play by the rules – we only have one world to share and we must all respect it.

A longer version of this article is available at

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