As consumers become increasingly worried about the damaging effects of plastic packaging on the environment, sustainability is undoubtedly a top priority for businesses, with governments worldwide increasingly introducing regulations on packaging and plastic use   to address the growing plastic waste pollution problem. 

To better understand the evolving plastics landscape, this article seeks to uncover key statistics linked to plastic production and waste, unpack some of the existing and upcoming regulations in place, and explain how supply chain software can help to collect packaging specifications and map packaging value chains. 

The plastic waste problem

As plastic production has surged exponentially since the 1950s, so too has plastic waste, with the majority now ending up in landfill, becoming part of uncontrolled and mismanaged waste streams or dumped in the environment, including at sea. 

  • Today, we produce around 300 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, equating to the weight of the entire human population. 
  • Half of all plastic produced is designed for single-use, such as bottles and bags. 
  • Less than 10% of the plastic waste generated globally to date has been recycled. 
  • In the early 2000s, the amount of plastic waste generated rose more in a single decade than it had in the previous 40 years. 

The evolving plastic legislation landscape

Many industries are already taking action to reduce plastic waste in operations at country level, including Wrap’s UK Plastics Pact to remove plastic packaging from certain fruit and veg products and the Refill Coalition. However, keeping track of the growing government plastic waste regulations and maintaining a granular understanding of the requirements can be challenging. 

The majority of regulation in place concerning packaging focuses on the restriction of certain materials and a focus on waste management via extended producer responsibility (EPR). 83% of legal measures relating to sustainable packaging worldwide focus on plastics with financial penalties (versus subsides) representing the main and preferred regulatory vehicle for change. 

Here we summarise some recent directives from the UK and Europe, with more information taken across 30 countries to be found in this McKinsey article

  • UK Plastic Packaging Tax – applied from 1 April 2022, the plastic packaging tax will be introduced to create greater demand for recycled materials to increase recycling and appropriate waste collection, and reduce the amount of plastic going to landfill and incineration. UK importers and manufacturers who import 10 or more tonnes of plastic packaging over a 12 month period will be liable to pay £200 per tonne of chargeable plastic packaging components of a single specification. 
  • EU Single-Use Plastics Directive – applied from 3 July 2021, aim is to prevent and reduce the impact of certain plastic products on the environment (in particular the aquatic environment), and on human health, as well as promoting the transition to a circular economy with innovative and sustainable business models, products and materials. 

Mapping packaging supply chains and collecting packaging specifications

Knowing where to start to maintain compliance against growing packaging regulations or to demonstrate progress against plastic or packaging waste reduction targets can seem daunting. But by putting supplier networks on a digital map, businesses can take the first steps to collaborating with and capturing data from the supply chain to build a more sustainable future when it comes to packaging. 

Working with leading food businesses since 2013, our suite of digital supply chain tools has been helping organisations to understand and manage packaging through the tiers by: 

  • Capturing packaging specifications to understand composition, size and weight by product or category 
  • Mapping the packaging value chain from raw-materials sourcing to disposal, collection and sorting 
  • Collecting supplier responses relating to forthcoming packaging regulations or packaging formats to identify risk via Remote Auditing 
  • Sharing sustainability, climate, packaging action plans and policies using our secure, central document management solution 

To find out how the Authenticate platform  could help your business unwrap packaging supply chains and accelerate plastic reduction objectives, get in touch to request a demo. 

For more information on the Authenticate platform or to discuss your challenges and requirements, get in touch with the team.