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UK can meet export quality demands

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) says it is confident that its members will be able to cope with demands for increasing quality of export paper, despite stricter standards imposed by China.

The paper export market has been hit by China’s Green Fence clampdown on lower quality material, which has resulted in material being rejected with some exporters halting shipments until the impact of the new policy is fully understood.

Speaking at the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group’s seminar on packaging yesterday (22 April), the Confederation of Paper Industries director general David Workman questioned whether the waste management sector was ready to meet the new quality requirements.

Referring to the 1.5% limit to contamination of paper bales demanded by China, Workman said that this was “well below” the standard being achieved in the UK now.

However, Jacob Hayler, economist at the ESA, which represents waste companies, said that the industry would have to respond to changes in the market.

“Quality is an issue, but if that is what is happening in the market then I’m sure that our members will be able to deal with it appropriately,” he said.

The seminar also examined minimising the environmental impact of packaging and included speakers from Sainsbury’s, Tetra Pak and the Packaging Federation.

Sainsbury’s head of packaging and design, Stuart Lendrum, said that the retailer had a target to halve packaging by 2025, but warned against taking too broad an approach.

“Reducing packaging is important but we have to make sure the materials are recycled and recyclable,” he said. “You have to be mindful of the unintended consequences. Vacuum packed fish and poultry can have a negative customer perception for example. Any changes to packaging have to work from a consumption point of view.”

He added that the packaging target was only one of a number of sustainability targets at the company which were all linked.

Packaging Federation chief executive Dick Searle outlined findings of recent research into consumer attitudes to packaging, which also pointed out the role of packaging in reducing food waste.

Tetra Pak’s Gavin Landeg highlighted the firm’s work to create a carton recycling facility in West Yorkshire, which he said would be boosted by the fact that 50% of councils were now collecting cartons.

The panel discussion also put a spotlight on the need to increase the capture of recyclable materials to boost recycling rates.

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