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Government delays packaging strategy due to carbon query

A packaging stakeholder insider has told MRW that the new packaging strategy is being delayed because of a question raised at a packaging policy meeting with Environment Minister Jane Kennedy.

The insider said that at a packaging policy for England meeting with Kennedy before Christmas, people were asking her:" How can you have a packaging policy without a product policy? And that is what they are chewing over about at the moment."

The insider explained that the Government needed to look at how the logistics of carbon based targets worked by not looking at packaging in isolation but at the product as well. He said: It is a mistaken belief that packaging that comes on the market is not needed. But when you have packaging you will always have a demand for its product and the demand for packaging is driven by the goods you must buy.

He used the example of strawberries and said that the product could come from Holland but the packaging could be made in England and said that the carbon lifecycle of the packaging would be complex when viewed in isolation from its product. Consumers want goods that they can buy all year round. Strawberries can be bought at anytime of the year just because of the packaging around them. Brands like Coca Cola rely on packaging to brand their products.

The Department, for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has already laid out the themes and options of the new strategy (see MRW story). Its main aim is to maximise the recycling of packaging by 2012. Last November Defra said that delays to the packaging strategy were caused due to ministerial changes.

In response to the recent claims a Defra spokesman said: We do not respond to speculation or insider claims. The packaging strategy will be published in due course.

Compliance scheme Valpak marketing director Duncan Simpson said: I am not aware of the publication date and I am unclear as to the reasons why it has been delayed. But I can see the arguments that some stakeholders have raised over not decoupling packaging from the product but to look at both together is extremely complex.

He added: There is already a packaging regime in place which is working well and has targets in place until 2012. Work completed by the Waste & Resources Action Programme has shown recycling to have a positive environmental impact in a majority of cases and therefore you would assume that this is the same for packaging recycling. Another example is when the commodity prices fell in late 2008, subsidies given by producers from the packaging recovery note system helped shift materials onto end markets and helped with the environment.

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