NEWS FROM THE FRONTLINE.
WHY DID THIS HAPPEN? WHAT'S THE BPF'S MESSAGE AND WHAT ARE WE DOING ABOUT IT?
Firstly, the Conservative Party fared poorly in last year's General Election and has suffered from a very slender majority. Since that point it's been carrying out a rebranding exercise which culminated in a meeting at No. 10 with senior party officials and MPs on November 30th. They were given a presentation by Gavin Barwell, former MP for Croydon Central, and now the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, who recommended that the Conservatives plant their flag in the middle of the Environmental policy area as this was being overlooked by the other main parties and would contribute to a vote winning, caring image. This exactly coincided with the culmination of David Attenborough's Blue Planet II with its horror story about plastics in the seas. For opportunistic Ministers, this was a heaven- sent platform from which to launch their new programme. Hence plastics has suddenly become a political football in the UK.
Our BPF message is that we share the public desire to minimise plastics waste and we have a long record in lightweighting, energy saving and recycling to back that up. Plastic packaging recycling now stands at 45 per cent and plastics drinks bottle recycling has reached 74 per cent. Outside of packaging we have recycled well over a million tonnes of plastic windows. This story is increasing daily. The limitations on this stem more from logistical factors than technical.
Instead of introducing a new fiscal instrument, the existing charges on the packaging chain under the Producers Responsibility (Packaging) Regulations - the PRN system - urgently requires reform to decisively encourage less export of waste and more domestic recycling. More facilities for capturing on-the-go waste need to be introduced and what is described as 'more difficult to recycle plastics waste' needs to be tackled.
It is our implacable view that to suggest that the use of plastics is in some way inherently wrong is absolutely misconceived and a slight on the professionalism of the plastics and its user industries. Retailers, for example, have spent decades poring over lifecycle assessment studies to arrive at the carefully considered decisions on material usage which they have in place today.
The BPF has met with the Secretary of State for the Environment and has submitted its views on how to increase recycling levels beyond those achieved today. Government must work with us to create the logistics to facilitate this. We have met with the Treasury and we are hopeful that measures other than a conventional tax will be assessed in a 'Call for Evidence' which will contain a wide variety of more constructive opportunities.
Our BPF Communications activities are at full blast with some 20 TV and radio interviews given in the period mid-December to mid-January. We are mobilising our membership to communicate our messages to Members of Parliament and I myself am writing to the Prime Minister, Theresa May. Whilst there may seem to be a veritable media frenzy relishing the prospect of 'a war on plastics', I urge the industry to keep calm, focus on its sustainability message and promote the benefits of plastics where possible.
HIS EXCLUSIVE COLUMN, PHILIP LAW, DIRECTORGENERAL OF THE BRITISH PLASTICS FEDERATION, STARTS THE YEAR BY ADDRESSING THE ISSUES SURROUNDING THE SO-CALLED 'WAR ON PLASTICS'.