Speaking at the Business Leaders’ Forum in London last month – sponsored by law firm DWF –, Richard Clothier, managing director of dairy business Wyke Farms, called for a “holistic approach” to dealing with waste packaging rather than focusing on one element of the problem.
“David Attenbourgh’s Blue Planet programme certainly pushed packaging to the fore and it’s currently driving a lot of emotion. As businesses, we’re suddenly being charged with creating a circular economy for packaging – to keep it in the industry and out of the environment.”
Clothier added that focusing too much on reducing plastic waste could have adverse impact on other aspects of the food chain, including waste.
Cost of food waste
“According to WRAP [Waste & Resources Action Programme], food waste costs the average family around £70 per month,” he said. “Every day in UK homes, we’re throwing away a million loaves of bread, 4.4 million whole potatoes, nearly one million whole bananas, 1.2 million whole tomatoes, 700,000 whole oranges, 800,000 whole apples.
“Packaging is the link to some of the biggest drivers of food waste, including pack size and shelf-life, both of which could be compromised in the war on plastics.
“Plastic waste is only one metric, there’s so much more to consider in this issue. For all of its critics, plastic is still the best way to transport cheese and other food around the world and keeping it fresh and safe. If we only focus on this element, we won’t meet other targets that have been set out in the Courtauld Commitment 2025.
‘Sound bites are cheap’
“This issue is about packaging food systems, not just food packaging waste. Sound bites are cheap but if we’re looking for solutions, we need common sense to prevail.”
He added that delegating the issue of handling recycling to local authorities wasn’t a proper solution and it needed action at a national level to address inconsistencies.
“Some claim recycling is the answer but there are over 400 different recycling schemes in the UK, leading to a lot of confusion, and that’s on top of the fact that the energy balance is better recovered from incineration than recycling.
“Plus, the fact there are still some local authorities that don’t collect recycling products is unbelievable. A national solution from the Government is badly needed.”