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Feature: All change

Although the Government’s latest figures on packaging waste may have left a little to be desired, they did show that in 2004, UK reprocessors recycled 296,492 tonnes more than in the previous year.

From this improvement it seems that businesses are increasingly adopting recycling strategies and in a timely fashion the current consultation to the packaging regulations is addressing how the provision of packaging data for smaller obligated companies could be made easier.

According to Paul James, general manager of Excel’s packaging datastore services, knowing that the scope and inclusion of the packaging waste regulations may increase means that obligated companies need to change their point of view from seeing the packaging waste regulations as a cash drain to realising the long-term commercial benefits associated with effective packaging management.

“Companies pour over their accounts in a bid to shave costs from their businesses — be it via product manufacturing processes, staffing or transport solutions — but just accept the fact that they continue to handle the same amount of packaging and therefore pay for its recovery, recycling or reuse and purchase currently sky-rocketing PRNs,” he says.

However, James says that it is not in legislative compliance that companies are missing out; it is the fact that by operating more cleverly, less packaging could be placed on the market, less would then have to be reprocessed, and fewer PRNs would have to be purchased resulting in reduced cost to the business.

Good packaging and waste minimisation practice can help cut costs and improve margins. Subsequently, businesses must start putting packaging minimisation higher up on the agendas.

He continues: “Step one is to comply with the regulations and thus be able to demonstrate this with supporting data. Step two is to then look at the business and introduce methods of operating that actually reduce the amount of waste packaging, thus minimising associated costs.

“Process change, aimed at taking waste out of the packaging supply chain, plays a vital role in minimising packaging — and sits alongside actual packaging change and product modification in the drive for greater efficiency. Indeed, each of these areas needs to be studied in greater detail when investigating the opportunities for packaging minimisation.”

However, James is keen to point out that a half-hearted approach will rarely work. Packaging minimisation is a solution for the long-term that will pay dividends. When considering packaging reduction he says that companies must look at the complete packaging supply chain. Only when a company can calculate the costs of over-packaging throughout the business, can changes that deliver the greatest margin improvement be identified.

“Moving on from the process, it is also important that more efficient ways of packaging products are pursued, both in terms of their transportation and in final presentation to the consumer,” he adds. “Ideas such as the use of plastic, reusable totes within the major grocery retailers supply chains show that packaging minimisation is not only environmentally responsible, it can also aid the flow and presentation of the products and save money. We can also see this in the use of plastic pallets and thinner gauge shrink film for the wrapping of boxes together during shipment.

“It is vital for the packaging of the consumer product to be scrutinised closely, both in terms of the pac

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