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What’s the story behind Recycling ! (Part 2)

Dec 17, 2018 | Corrugated Packaging, Market Research, Packaging, Packaging Research and Analysis, Recycling

We wrote in our last blog about how some of our team are on a journey to learn more about what happens to our waste, whether that’s waste for landfill or for recycling. Packaging market research out in the field!

We visited Agrivert which deals with our food waste, Viridor which takes in our black bin waste, and a Materials Recovery Facility, the first purpose-built recycling factory in the UK.

Our journey was sparked by personal and professional interest – after all, at NOA we specialise in packaging industry research – and we wanted to see for ourselves what happens to waste and whether we’re making progress. Blue Planet II was a huge wake-up call to the problem of plastic.

So is it all bad news?

Certainly not. There is a lot being done in the recycling field. However, as we hinted in our last blog, lack of consistency is causing confusion to consumers. One expert we’ve been speaking to thinks the answer here may be one box for plastic, metal and glass, another for paper and cardboard, a landfill bin and a food waste bin. We will have to see what DEFRA decides in its latest deliberations.

There is also a huge debate regarding what cardboard can or cannot be recycled. For example, what about the bottom of a pizza box? It’s made of cardboard, but is often spattered with food – tomatoes, oil, cheese etc. Can these be recycled? The answer is generally a “No”!

Also, disposing of all the recycled material is not that straightforward. China, as we’ve said in a previous blog, closed its doors to the world’s waste for processing and recycling, which caused a backlog for several months at the end of 2017 and into 2018 – you may remember around Christmas, just before China’s ban came in, ships carrying tonnes of recyclable plastic were being held up in Hong Kong harbour.

The BBC’s recent programme Drowning in Plastic reiterated the extent of the plastic pollution on our planet. Clearly more needs to be done, not just with ‘old’ plastic but how much new plastic we are producing. Nearly all plastic ever produced – some 79% – still exists in some form or another on our planet. We cannot cope with businesses producing much more!

drowning in plastic

One answer may be the government’s review of the PRN system. PRNs – or Packaging Waste Recovery Notes – affect larger producers, packers and retailers of packaging, who are required to purchase PRNs, which go towards the cost of recycling packaging waste. The system is being looked at – watch this space for more news on how these funds are (and could be) being used.

Another innovation is #IKEAtoyapp, an App which gives children ideas for things they can make out of the cardboard packaging. Here’s a marvellous video from the clever IKEA marketing people, which shows some of the suggestions. Cardboard shark anyone?  

And of course – and this is our favourite idea – why not replace plastic with paper wherever and whenever possible? Already, due to a shortage of virgin paper in Europe, recycled paper is often the first choice. But, on the other side of the coin, is the fact that due to the huge boom in online shopping (and now that cardboard transport packaging waste is being handled from our homes more than it is at retail outlets) a lower percentage of our cardboard is now being recycled. We can’t keep up…

Many ideas are being put forward – take a look at our blog on alternatives to plastic – but far more research needs to be done in this area and at NOA, that’s just what we’re doing.

At NOA, we specialise in research, coaching and marketing services for the packaging industry. We are passionate about the packaging industry both on a personal level and a global level and the whole subject of packaging materials, the waste that is produced and what happens to it is one of our favourite topics. To find out how we could help you research your burning topics, or to invest in our most recent cardboard corrugated packaging industry report, please get in touch.