This month, Philip Law, Public and Industrial Affairs Director at the British Plastics Federation, gives a snapshot of current BPF activity, which reveals strong economic progress in the industry, intensive engagement with government both at UK and EU level and dialogue with the media over misconceived reporting.
The most recent BPF Business Trends survey carried out in January is now being published. It attracted 108 member firm responses, a recent record. Some 73 percent of returns predicted an increase in UK sales turnover; 49 percent are expecting profitability to increase and 40 percent are planning to take on more staff.
The Survey helped inform the BPF's Seven Association Alliance letter sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, preparatory to the Budget announcement on March 19th 2014. The letter, essentially a wish list from the plastics industry, called on the government to reduce VAT on energy efficient products such as EPS installation and PVC double-glazing, and to completely review the Green Deal. It welcomed reducing tax rates for shale glass exploration and stressed the importance of job creation in new businesses created at a local level. Again, it expressed the industry's frustration with the future outlook for energy supply.
The Seven Associations were also critical of a 5p charge for plastic carrier bags, pointing out the high 70 percent use rate and their minimal environmental impact.
Bags have also been a strong feature of industry contact with government in recent weeks. Recyclers put up a very spirited opposition to exemptions to the supposed carrier bag charge and there have been fast moving developments in Brussels on the European Parliament's review of the European Commission's Proposal to reduce carrier bag usage across the EU. Not only does the issue of exemptions arise, the Proposals acts against the principle of the free circulation of goods around the EU.
Carrier bags fall under the remit of the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and this was originally inspired as an 'internal market' directive, very much concerned with the harmonisation of packaging in the EU, supported by a raft of technical CEN standards. There are fears that the Commission's Proposal will promote a multitude of different measures across the EU, with a mixture of charges, taxes and bans here there and everywhere and that international commerce will have to respond to a very confused situation.
The national media was less then helpful recently when 'The Guardian' published an article questioning the safety of plastics food packaging. The BPF
reminded the publication of the great advances made in food hygiene as a result of the wider use of plastics packaging and that there have been no reported cases of a consumer being harmed by the chemical ingredients of plastics packaging.
The BPF recently played host to a group of 26 Danish waste management specialists drawn from plastics packaging manufacturers local authorities and consultants, the conclusions of which will be of great interest to UK plastics recyclers. Traditionally, Denmark has been a great exponent of energy from waste, but the shape of legislation is shifting with a greater encouragement of recycling. As a consequence, there is a great shortage of Danish recycling capacity. The event not only provided a great networking opportunity but also pointed up several opportunities for exploitation.