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Posts Tagged ‘plastic bags’

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.

EC bag consultation shows depth of feeling – and depth of ignorance

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

With the European Commission having published the results of its consultation on the use of plastic bags, the plastics industry is awash with comment and debate. Many pundits feel that the report reveals an alarming level of ignorance among the European public about the effects of plastic on the environment.

A staggering 97 percent of responses ’strongly agreed’ that action is needed to curb plastic bag use. Comments included the following statement:

“Plastic is destroying our environment and is a pollution that is not necessary. It is has a deep bad impact on nature and it is poisonous for all living systems. There are basically profit-interests behind using so much plastic. We should avoid using it and the EU should decide against unnecessary plastics.”

Strong stuff and rather spurious. Another respondent claimed:

“Carrier bags are a needless drain on our oil resources and can be easily replaced by reusable bags.”

This perhaps overlooks the point that plastic bags are, in fact, reusable!

Unsurprisingly, the plastics industry is fighting back with a vengeance. For instance, PRW.com – the online version of Plastics & Rubber Weekly – referred to some of the public’s comments as “baseless twaddle”.

One thing is clear: the plastics industry – and plastic bag suppliers in particular – are very likely to be facing action from the EC in the near future.

Plastic bag ban boosts sales of bin liners Down Under

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

The efficacy of the plastic bag ban recently introduced in Canberra, Australia, is being called into question after a leading supermarket revealed that bin liner sales have rocketed since the new law came into effect.

Grocery giant Coles said that bin liner sales have increased by a whopping 29 per cent since the law – which bans the provision of plastic bags thinner than 35 microns, typically the kind distributed by supermarkets and takeaways – came into effect on November 1. Commented Jon Church, Coles’ Head of Communications, “Wherever plastic bag bans have been introduced, we see an increase in sales of bin liners as customers no longer have single-use carrier bags available which many households use for disposing of their waste. It is well reported that following the South Australian ban, sales of bin liners across all retailers doubled.” Coles and rival chain Woolworths have been charging for thicker carrier bags since the ban was introduced.

Alistair Coe, Liberal MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) in ACT (Australian Capital Territory), has claimed that the figures call into question the government’s reasons for the ban. “It goes to show that the plastic bag ban is putting an extra cost on the weekly bills of Canberra families,” he said, “but in addition to that, it shows that the consumption of plastic bags is perhaps remaining steady.” The new laws were passed by the ACT government with the support of the Greens, while the Liberals voted against it.

How to make QR codes work for your business

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

QR (Quick Response) codes are the becoming a popular marketing tool for B2C and even B2B brands. The early adopters of this technology included the USA and Japan but the UK is now among the world’s top 10 largest users of QR codes.

When scanned with a smartphone, these patterns can be used to redirect customers to a mobile-optimised website with virtually any kind of content. This means that they are a great way of providing the facility for instant information retrieval without the need for typing. Not surprisingly, many companies are now picking up on their potential in terms of promotional materials – including using them on paper bags, plastic bags and cotton bags.

For QR codes to be an effective marketing tool, however, companies need to think carefully about the experience that is offered to the user:

1. Inform the audience

Most smartphones don’t have a native QR reader installed, so you need to tell your customers that they can download an app that will allow them to read QR codes – many of which are free. Include details of these apps in your QR marketing campaigns.

2. Make it work!

There is no point putting a QR code in an in-flight magazine advert or on a poster in the underground network, where there is no WIFI or even a ‘phone signal! Also, don’t simply connect users to your website or company Facebook page – that’s just boring. Think about creating mobile sites, small downloads and content that can be accessed anywhere. Plan your QR content carefully; there has to be some incentive for users to scan – such as exclusive content, key product information or automatic data sharing. Remember, once a relationship is established, it is easy to add additional content such as discounts and special offers to build customer loyalty.

3. Keep aware

Set up your QR code marketing so that you can monitor it and change it easily throughout the campaign. Analysis software is available to allow businesses to see exactly when their QR codes were scanned, which were most successful and which media tools had the best return on investment.

Plans for ‘compostable’ plastics at London Olympics

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Amid claims that the London 2012 Olympics will be the greenest in the event’s history, an environmental organisation is hoping that plastic packaging used at the event that is not recyclable will be made from compostable materials.

The NNFCC, the UK’s National Centre for Biorenewable Energy, Fuels and Materials, has agreed to act as an advisor to the Olympics Delivery Authority and London Organising Committee on how renewable packaging can be used at the event. The organisation is helping to create a supply chain for bio-based packaging at the London Olympics and will ensure that materials used comply with European Standard EN13432 (the requirement for packaging recovery through composting and biodegradation).

The NNFCC said this certification would mean that non-reusable, non-recyclable packaging should be suitable for ‘in-vessel’ composting or anaerobic digestion. John Williams, the NNFCC’s Head of Materials, said the body wanted any plastics used at London 2012 that were not recyclable to be made out of certified compostable plastic. The NNFCC is promoting the certification scheme for compostable materials through its UK Renewable Packaging Group, while “raising awareness of the benefits offered by more sustainable materials to key players in the packaging supply chain”.

Mr Williams conceded that the scale of the Olympics venture would be relatively small but added, “2012 is a perfect way to show how waste can be dealt with.” The NNFCC is working with a number of retail brands – including the fast food chain, McDonalds – in the run-up to the event.

Here at the Corporate Carrier Company, we take environmental concerns seriously. As standard, all of our polythene bags are produced from biodegradable plastic. They are also produced in the UK, minimising transport miles. All our UK-produced laminated paper bags are manufactured with paper from approved sustainable sources and the inks used are made from vegetable dyes, making them an eco-friendly option. Whilst we have the option to import bags when longer lead times allow, the vast majority of our laminated paper bags are produced in the UK, minimising transport miles. Of course, our twisted handle paper bags are 100% biodegradable, while our cotton bags are produced from natural, unbleached cotton.

Unilever partners local council for recycling initiative

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

Fast-moving consumer goods giant, Unilever, has announced plans to work in partnership with Torbay Council in a pilot project for mixed plastics recycling. This is the first time Unilever has worked with a council on such a scheme and its decision has been commended by the Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP).

The name behind famous household brands such as Wall’s, Flora, Persil, Dove and Knorr will support the council’s new mixed plastics recycling initiative. From December, the 60,000 households in Torbay will be able to recycle their mixed plastics by adding them to their weekly refuse collection, to be sorted in transit. Materials that previously went to landfill that will now be recycled include margarine tubs, noodle pots and ice cream tubs.

Torbay Council’s Executive Lead with responsibility for waste disposal and recycling, Councillor David Thomas, said, “It is thanks to the fantastic efforts of Torbay residents that we have increased the Bay’s recycling rate to 45 per cent. We are aware they would also like to recycle plastics and other items, and we are really pleased that our joint venture company, TOR21, has been able to find outlets for these items. We are also extremely grateful to Unilever for their support for our latest initiative.”

Commenting on behalf of Unilever, Louis Lindenberg, Global Packaging Sustainability Director, said, “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do at Unilever. In the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we made a global commitment to halve our environmental impact by 2020 across the life cycle of our products, incorporating a pledge to increase recycling in countries all around the world, including the UK. This project with Torbay Council is a great example of our commitment in action and our way of helping consumers to do their part for the environment.”

About a million tonnes of non-bottle plastic packaging are disposed of by households each year in the UK. With this new programme, Unilever and Torbay Council are demonstrating how this type of packaging can be collected and recycled effectively into valuable resource streams.

Collections sold to pay for funeral of ‘bag lady’

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Family, friends and neighbours of a collector affectionately known as the ‘bag lady’ are planning to auction off her property to pay the costs of her funeral.

Carol Vaughan, who died recently at the age of 67 at her home in the Black Country’s Great Barr, had amassed a collection of more than 35,000 carrier bags, as well as 600 biscuit tins, 850 mugs and a Guinness World Record-breaking number of soaps. She had became a local celebrity and even recently appeared on ITV’s Daybreak programme, in the show’s ‘Collectorholics’ feature.

Despite her tendency to hoard unusual items – including also ashtrays, watches, cuddly toys and beads – she was not given to collecting cash and the executors of her will claim that there is no money to fund her funeral. Hence the sell-off of the thousands of items that she has collected over the years.

Carrier bag collector passes away

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

A prolific collector of carrier bags who was known affectionately as ‘the bag lady’ has died at the age of 67.

Carol Vaughan of Great Barr in the Black Country had amassed a collection of more than 35,000 carrier bags over a number of years. It wasn’t just bags that took Carol’s eye, however; she also made it into the Guinness Book of Records for having the biggest soap collection, as well as collecting over 600 biscuit tins and 850 mugs. Incredibly, all the items were kept at her rather modest home in Dunedin Road, where she passed away.

Carol recently had a brush with fame, appearing on ITV’s ‘Daybreak’ in its ‘collectorholics’ slot, where she talked about her love of collecting. Tributes have been paid by numerous friends and neighbours, who told how she could “light up a room”.