Packaging Problems: Latte Levy, “foreign garbage” & Plastic Straws

Over the past six months in the news we’ve noticed the increase of articles focusing on packaging problems, including the “latte levy”, China’s ban on “foreign waste” and the government’s potential “ban on plastic straws and cotton buds”. As a risk management company, we have some solutions to help you navigate these new requirements including ISO 14001 and FSC.

Government Policy Changes

The MP’s Latte Levy

The amount of coffee cups the UK is throwing away each year has been the focus of a recent report to MPs. This has been an ongoing problem affected by Britain’s love for takeaway coffee. MPs have decided to tackle this issue by pushing for a “25p Latte Levy” on disposable coffee cups. These cups, contrary to popular believe, can not be easily recycled due to a plastic film inside the cup to improve the waterproof qualities.

If manufacturers cannot make all disposable cups recyclable by 2023 then MPs are also considering a total ban on disposable cups.

China’s ban on “foreign garbage”

According to the Independent, in 2016 7.3 million metric tonnes of waste plastics were imported by Chinese manufacturers from the UK, the EU, the US and Japan.

China has stated that it will prohibit imports of “foreign garbage” meaning that trades from the above countries will be halted.

Dan Johnson from the BBC went to a plant in Southwark to find out more about the plastic recycling stock, you can watch the video here.

The cotton bud and plastic straw ban

As part of the government’s plan to cut pollution to rivers, oceans and land, cotton buds and plastic straws could be getting banned as early as next year.

These single-use plastic items are one of the top origins of water pollution as they dissolve and break down into smaller pieces, making it easier for marine life to digest and mistake as food. Not only does the plastic pollute, it also enters the human food chain which could potentially have links to health problems. You can find out more about the effects on Plastic Straws according to Metro here.

This matter will be discussed later on in 2018 and could be put into effect next year.

Reduce Reuse Recycle

The mounting waste problem puts responsibility on producers to create durable products  that reduce the consumption of unsustainable materials.

We’ve seen recently Apple admitting it’s old iPhones performance being degraded leading to consumer purchasing new devices, this contributed to the problem.

All organisations need to rethink their approach to packaging, starting by Reducing the amount, as Amazon has recently tried, by affixing mailing labels directly on to produce boxes, rather that packaging within another Amazon box.

Secondly Organisations can support the Reuse of package and other products, as many of the main high street coffee chains now do, but refilling your reusable cup with coffee – and providing a discount for those who bring their own cups back. Starbucks aim to eliminate plastic straws completely by 2020.

Recycling should be used as a last resort as although it is better than sending waste to landfill, the recycling process still uses a large amount of energy.

One firm supporting recycling is Costa, which launched a Cup Recycling Scheme in London and Manchester at the end of 2016 – see here.

Packaging Solutions

The emergency of new packaging technologies and solutions is taking us slowly towards a greener future, however businesses still often overlook their ability to influence others in to changing their behaviour, and focus only on how they can reduce their own environmental impact.  

Persuading your supply chain to be more environmentally friendly or giving a discount to customers who change their habits for the better are both great objectives that can be incorporated in to your ISO 14001 Environmental Management System.

The Charity Sector

It may be interesting to note that since the new cafe area was completed at Essex Wildlife Trust Hanningfield (November), drinks are served in china cups instead of takeaway cups. Visitors can request the waxed paper takeaway cups, but the staff and volunteers at the centre encourage visitors to take the time to enjoy their drink in a china cup while they take in the stunning view across the reservoir.