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Archive for February, 2012

Tesco and Unilever help protect the rainforest

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Global brands, Tesco and Unilever, have both launched campaigns aimed at protecting the world’s rainforests and improving the sustainability of supply chains.

Tesco has announced a partnership with the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) entitled ‘Together for Trees’, which is designed to raise more than 1 million for rainforest projects worldwide. Money raised will be used to support the RSPB’s existing rainforest work, including projects in Harapan Rainforest in Indonesia, Gola Rainforest in West Africa and Centre Hills Nation Park in Montserrat.

The supermarket’s customers will be asked to donate to the scheme either directly or through the ‘green’ Clubcard points they clock up when re-using carrier bags or recycling printer ink cartridges. Tesco also hopes to donate £75,000 from the sale of Together for Trees reusable bags. Funds raised through the mandatory plastic bag tax in the chain’s Welsh stores will be handed over to RSPB Cymru.

Tesco has also announced plans to work with the RSPB to reduce the impact of its product supply chains on forest environments. This co-operation is expected to involve developing a new sustainable sourcing strategy for six tropical commodities that are commonly used in Tesco products – palm oil, beef, soya, paper, coffee and cocoa.

David North, Tesco UK Corporate Affairs Director, commented, “As a leading retailer, we also have a great opportunity to engage our customers to help protect our environment. We are proud to be working with the RSPB – the partnership reinforces our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and brings us one step closer to creating a greener future for our children.”

Meanwhile, Unilever has been announced a new target for making its Magnum brand the world’s first ice cream to source 100% of its global cocoa supply from Rainforest Alliance-certified farms by 2015. The FMCG giant already offers two ice cream products that are made using only Rainforest Alliance-certified cocoa – Magnum Ghana and Magnum Ecuador – but it now plans to speed up the introduction of certified supplies across all of its products. Unilever wants to ensure that 60% of its cocoa supplies come from sustainable sources by the end of this year, with the aim of delivering 100% certified supplies by 2015.

The Magnum commitment is the latest step in Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan, under which the company is committed to halving the environmental impact of its products by 2020.

EU-wide plastic bag ban divides opinion

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Experts are warning that proposals for an EU-wide ban on plastic carrier bags should be based on evidence and not simply political pressure. A ban may form part of proposals to be unveiled next month by the European Commission in its green paper on plastic waste. Many in the plastics industry fear that the document may bow to public opinion expressed in a recent consultation, in which 70% of respondents voted for an outright ban.

In the UK, an e-petition launched very recently to banish plastic bags has already attracted some 650 signatures and is backed by a number of high-profile figures. If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, it will secure a debate in the House of Commons.

Many industry pundits argue that a ban will lead to an increase in use of alternatives to plastic bags, many of which are more damaging to the environment. Paper bags, for example, use the same amount of oil to make as a plastic bag, but are considerably bulkier to transport, adding to transport miles and increasing carbon footprint. It is also feared that banning single-use carrier bags will lead to people buying plastic bags – instead of simply reusing their grocery bags – for their compost, kitchen refuse and dog waste. Long-life bags such as cotton shoppers need to be used a number of times before they have a lower environmental impact, so it is a question of changing people’s behaviour.

Most retailers object to a ban, preferring a voluntary approach as in France, Germany, Portugal, Hungary and the Netherlands, where retailers have begun charging for plastic bags voluntarily. Italy implemented Europe’s first outright ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags at the beginning of 2011. Denmark, Ireland and Bulgaria charge a plastic bag tax, while Belgium applies a fee that goes straight to a plastics recycling firm.

Ban or tax for plastic bags?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Last year, the European Commission’s public consultation on plastic bag use gathered over 15,500 responses. The results showed that over 70% of respondents were in favour of a ban on the distribution of plastic bags and the Commission is now considering its response.

Debates and votes on plastic bag use are increasingly common around the world. Countries, including China and Ireland, and cities, including San Francisco and Mexico City, have adopted bans or taxes in some form to curb the use of plastic bags. The issue is hotly contested in the US currently where, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year – most of which end up in landfill sites.

Although reducing litter and minimising environmental impact is something every community should strive for, both plastic bag bans and taxes bring their own problems. Although bans and taxes lead to a reduction in the use of disposable plastic bags, the amount of pollution overall is typically unaffected.

When plastic bags are taxed or banned, many grocery shoppers turn instead to paper bags. While paper bags are green in the sense that they can be recycled, getting them to the store results in a higher carbon footprint. Being considerably bulkier and heavier, it typically takes almost seven lorries to deliver the number of paper bags that would fit in one lorry of plastic bags. This means that more fuel is required, resulting in more air pollution. Plastic bags can be recycled into oil, which can then be used for fuel, helping to mitigate the carbon footprint of delivering them to stores.

There is also the argument of convenience. Plastic bags quite simply have much higher functionality due to their low weight, compactness and relative strength. Ultimately plastic bags also take up much less space in landfills than bags made of alternative materials. For all these reasons, many people argue that a much better solution than a ban or a tax is to educate the public and encourage people to recycle more.

Northern Ireland to impose carrier bag tax next year

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

A tax on single-use plastic carrier bags of 5p is planned in Northern Ireland in 2013. The announcement was made last week by Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, who said that the tax would rise to 10p by April 2014. The proposals now have to go before the Northern Ireland assembly for approval before becoming law. Under the plans, there will be no charge for multi-use bags in 2013, although they will cost 10p the following year.

Mr Attwood commented, “There is no doubt that carrier bags are a scourge on the environment. Evidence from other countries demonstrates that a bag levy is a simple and effective means to reduce substantially the negative environmental impact of carrier bag consumption. A proposed 10p levy on single use carrier bags and lower cost reusable carrier bags can bring about significant environmental improvement. However I recognise that consumers will need time to change their behaviour and adjust to bringing their own bags when they shop. I therefore propose to discount the charge to five pence in the first year, when the levy will only apply to single-use carrier bags. This will ensure a phased approach to charging.”

The plans are being opposed by some sectors of the business community in Northern Ireland. In an interview with the BBC, Glynn Roberts of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) said, “We are concerned that this is a tax on hard-pressed working families and will add to the burden of red tape, particularly for small shops who will become tax collectors for this new scheme. It’s unclear if it is intended to discourage plastic bag use or if it is a revenue raiser. It has to do one or the other – it can’t do both.”

The move follows a similar tax implemented by the Republic of Ireland in 2002 – which now amounts to 22 cents (18p) – following which usage of plastic bags in the Irish Republic fell by 90%. A similar scheme was recently implemented in Wales and has also significantly reduced the number of bags issued at the tills of retail stores.

Many environmentalists see the move by the Northern Ireland Executive as adding further pressure on David Cameron to introduce similar legislation for England. However, the efficacy of plastic bag taxes has been repeatedly called into question, as evidence from around the world suggests that their introduction results in rocketing sales of bin liners, suggesting that the genuinely ‘single-use’ carrier bag is a rare item indeed.

MPs meet key event industry figures

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Key people from Britain’s event industry met with members of parliament at a private dinner on 2 February. Part of the Britain for Events campaign, the dinner was co-chaired by Nick de Bois MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Events, and Michael Hirst, Chair of the Business Visits & Events Partnership. The objective of the dinner was to create closer partnership between government and industry in order to increase the international competitiveness of the UK event industry – upon which, of course, the buoyancy of the promotional merchandise industry depends.

In all, 25 industry representatives were invited to the dinner and discussion, along with 5 MPs and also Lady Cobham (of VisitEngland) and Lord Triesman from the upper house. Key names invited from the events sector included Fay Sharpe of Zibrant, Leigh Jagger of Banks Sadler, Kevin Murphy of ExCeL London, Jonny Sullens of Confex Group, Ben Goedegebuure of SECC and Jane Longhurst of the Meetings Industry Association.

Said Michael Hirst, speaking before the event, “Britain for Events gives us the perfect opportunity to provide a coherent voice to local and national government. In Nick we’re fortunate to have an MP that both understands the industry and is willing to listen to senior personalities about the key measures the government could take to ensure the industry’s growth.”