Interview with: Brian Lodge
Director of Plastics and Flexible Packaging, The British Plastics Federation
Written by Sheree Hanna
Making plastic packaging more environmentally friendly has moved forward considerably in the past 40 years or so, but there are still challenges to tackle.
Recent and upcoming legislative measures aimed at making the industry greener are accelerating change in the plastic packaging industry. One was the introduction of the Plastics Packaging Tax. Nonetheless, the sector still needs support from the Government, brand owners and the public to navigate ongoing challenges.
Plastics recycling challenges
The British Plastics Federation (BPF) is the trade representative body for the plastics industry in the UK. Its role is to inform and educate on all the issues affecting its membership comprising some 550 companies.
Brian Lodge, the BPF’s Director of Plastics and Flexible Packaging, says: “The industry has a lot to do to be able to include more recycled material into packaging, as a lot of it can’t be accepted legally for direct food contact at the moment. There are many moving parts in the process that need to come together to make it viable for companies.”
At the same time, the industry has been developing packaging that uses less plastic and is lighter, as well as flexible refill packs. The BPF is also releasing a public-facing campaign with the Environmental Services Association to communicate the benefits of recycling plastic and address key questions.
Mass balance for chemical recycling
‘Chemical recycling’ is an umbrella term for technologies, which can recycle plastic that is unsuitable for mechanical recycling methods. One of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to growing chemical recycling is the lack of acceptance of mass balance. This is a chain of custody model used by industries to track materials through a complex value chain where physically tracking material is not possible. Acceptance of mass balance within the Plastic Packaging Tax would enable chemically recycled material to count towards ‘recycled content’ for tax purposes.
“The Government’s insistence that we cannot currently use mass balance for chemical recycling means we still can’t use some materials, certainly for direct food contact,” explains Lodge. “There are also issues around infrastructure and material availability. Plus, we are still waiting for investment and facilities to come on line. But we expect chemical recycling will continue to grow, as it complements mechanical recycling.”