Carbon debate took centre stage at Packaging Innovations

ORGANISERS of Packaging Innovations 2020 have revealed that carbon was the main topic of conversation at the showcase event in Birmingham last week.

Exhibitors displayed the latest environmentally-conscious products, while the two-day seminar programme featured representatives from the likes of DEFRA, Coca-Cola, Britvic and Carlsberg discussing sustainable packaging.

Kevin Vyse, head of technology at Rapid Action Packaging UK and former circular economy expert at M&S said, “We are acting quickly, but we are not looking at the facts. It is carbon that is killing the planet, not packaging. As we create new solutions to replace plastic, we are actually releasing more carbon into the atmosphere than ever before. The reason we are in such as mess is that we are reacting to opinion which is leading us down the wrong paths. We have to keep looking for new ways of thinking and challenging the ways we do things currently to make sure they are right.”

New for 2020 was the BIG Carbon Debate. Simon Balderson, owner at Sirane Group, one of the debate’s panellists, said, “I fear the argument against plastics has become emotional. People aren’t anti-plastic because of the carbon footprint, they are anti-plastic because they see images of dead whales. If all packaging came from plants and trees, there would be a huge carbon sink. Industries have to work collaboratively to find a solution.”

Margaret Bates, executive director at OPRL stated, “We need to differentiate between plastic and plastic pollution. Plastic has never done anything wrong; it is our mismanagement of it that is the problem.”

The debate featured experts from the likes of British Plastics Federation, Veolia, WWF, MPMA, University of Sheffield and City to Sea come together to discuss whether banning plastic packaging would impact the Government’s plan to achieve carbon-zero targets. Ultimately, the audience voted in favour of the movement, agreeing that banning plastic would impact the Government’s ability to meet its carbon targets.

Julie Simmons, bactiglas product manager at Wells Plastics said, “The BIG Carbon Debate raised some great points about the wider impact of packaging. It isn’t just about demonising plastic but about collaboration.”

Nick Brown, head of sustainability at Coca-Cola, joined a panel discussion to explore how brands can get consumers to play their part in the recycling process. “The science is absolutely clear,” he said. “By 2050, at the latest, packaging and business models must be carbon-zero…that’s why we are investing in deposit return schemes, to make it as easy as possible for consumers to recycle our packaging.”

The Visit the Future Hub also featured green initiatives. The Innovation Showcase displayed 12 innovative designs from the show floor, with FFP Packaging Solutions being awarded ‘Most Innovative Pack’ for its Esterseal design, a resealable pack that is certified ‘recycle’ by OPRL and can be collected in its entirety through the existing waste collection system.

New solutions on display included Innovia Films’ Propafilm Strata; Yorkshire Packaging Systems’ Flexo e-com; Schur Star Systems’ Zip-Pop Bag; and Delipac’s new sustainable food to go innovation.

Renan Joel, event director of Easyfairs’ UK packaging portfolio said, “Packaging Innovations 2020 has been an unforgettable show. The seminar sessions started up some really interesting conversations on the subject of sustainability and discussions kept going throughout the show, with parties from right across the packaging supply chain getting involved. It is fantastic that our event is such a well-respected platform for the sharing of industry insights and ideas.

“But the show is much more than a seminar programme. We welcomed more than 300 exhibitors, all of whom are performing right at the top of their game. There was an incredible mix of up and coming packaging suppliers and well-established names on the show floor.”