Packaging industry insights

Is your packaging waste costing the earth? Taxes, targets and how to reduce your packaging waste

[fa icon="calendar"] Sep 5, 2017 2:27:04 PM / by Matthew Botfield

If you’re a business handling at least 50 tonnes of packaging material a year, or have a turnover of more than £2 million a year, then doubtless you will already be familiar with the costs of waste recycling and recovery.  And, looking at the UK packaging recycling and recovery figures, you are probably already doing a pretty good job.  But with more stringent targets on the horizon, and associated recycling, recovery and landfill costs ever-increasing, what more could you be doing to reduce the amount of packaging waste you produce while at the same time minimising your costs and giving your brand reputation a boost, too? 

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Below, we make four suggestions, but first let’s look at those targets and costs.

Packaging Waste Targets

According to Government figures released in 2016, 72.7% of UK packaging waste was either recycled or recovered in 2013 compared to 69.1% in 2012, comfortably surpassing EU targets of 60%.  However, the circular economy proposals laid out by the European Commission in December 2015, would see the target rise to a minimum of 65% by 2025, and then rising to 75% in 2030.  While this target isn’t too much of a stretch beyond where we are currently, it all comes at a financial cost to businesses.

But that’s what these targets, landfill taxes and the like are all about.  Ultimately, they are intended to reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place: if you’re not producing waste then you haven’t got to pay to recycle it, recover it, or dump it.

The Cost of Waste

At present, an estimated 10 million tonnes of packaging materials make it out onto the UK market every year.  That is a lot of packaging, so it is clear why there is growing pressure to reduce it.  And when you consider that the standard tax rate for sending waste to landfill is £86.10 per tonne (for active waste; £2.70 per tonne for inert waste) on top of normal landfill fees, there is an awful lot of money at stake here. 

The rate is due to rise again in April 2018 to £88.95 and £2.80 per tonne respectively.  It is also anticipated that the 2020 recycling targets – outlined by Chancellor of Exchequer, Philip Hammond in the Spring Budget – for all packaging materials could lead to an increase in Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) prices as a consequence of a shortfall of materials available to meet the targets.

Packaging waste or, more specifically, too much packaging waste, is also a hot topic among consumers at the moment.  As online shopping and delivery becomes the norm, consumers are using social media to draw attention to examples of poorly designed, as well as excessive packaging, and there have been quite a few high-profile casualties of this over the last year or so.

So, the pressure to reduce packaging waste is on, and no doubt you are feeling it.  Below are some ideas that will help you to not only reduce the amount of packaging waste you produce – and therefore reduce the cost to your business – but will also help you to improve your overall customer experience and brand reputation:

  1. Minimise packaging

Reduce the amount of waste your customers must dispose of by, for example, using cushion dividers rather than packing items into individual boxes.  As well as reducing the amount of packaging necessary, it will also be more time, space and cost-efficient for you.

Tailoring your packaging to fit your product’s exact dimensions can also make a big difference.  This may seem a more expensive option at the outset, but it will not only reduce the amount of packaging waste you produce but will ultimately improve efficiency and improve the end user experience.

  1. Reduce the types of packaging you use

To make recycling different materials viable, many companies need to find ways to store packaging waste in order to accumulate enough to make it attractive to recycling companies.  It’s worth doing as there are some attractive rebates to be had (see Let’s Recycle).  The problem for some smaller companies is that they might not have the room to store lots of different kinds of waste materials, or they just don’t accumulate enough of them and so packaging waste that could be recycled or recovered can end up in landfill.

The most effective way to tackle the problem of storing and disposing of materials is to reduce the number of different materials you use in your packaging.  For example, Geami WrapPak® is an environmentally-friendly alternative to bubble wrap, which also does away with the need for tape, and can be recycled along with card and paper-based materials.

  1. Consider reusable packaging

Notbox, for example, is a reusable, one-piece, collapsible box with lid and carry handles that can replace your corrugate boxes for storage. This nifty multi-use box can be used as an alternative to single-use cardboard boxes, helping you reduce both packaging costs and carbon footprint. In fact, you can achieve up to a 25% saving in carbon emissions. It also comes with zip or Velcro closures, a document wallet, and can be tailored, resized and branded for your business.

  1. Make packaging a target for continuous improvement

If you haven’t reviewed your product packaging recently then set aside some time now to take stock – you might be surprised about the improvements you could make.  Better still, make packaging a point of continuous improvement; packaging technology is constantly developing and improving so keep an eye out for new innovations that could further reduce your packaging waste.

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Topics: Waste

Matthew Botfield

Written by Matthew Botfield

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