BPF Parliamentary Reception Urges for Ongoing Support for Indispensable Sector

On 23 November, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) held its annual parliamentary reception in conjunction with Plastics Europe, which saw pledges of continuing support from the Minister of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Nusrat Ghani MP, together with hard-hitting messages from the BPF Director General Philip Law.

18 MPs and peers joined 90 delegates from the plastics sector at the event, which Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby and Bulkington, hosted.

In her speech, Minister Ghani stated that “plastics are at the very core of our manufacturing sector in the UK – and that means they’re a priority for my portfolio, too.” She also paid tribute to the work and offices of the BPF, saying, “I am pleased to work with the British Plastics Federation who are always available, engaged and good-humoured, never failing to provide insightful information and pragmatic perspectives on behalf of the industry.”

  • Minister Ghani also enumerated several recent BPF achievements and milestones:
    Signing the UK Plastics Pact brings the country’s most prominent businesses together in close collaboration with Government and NGOs to build a circular economy and tackle plastic waste.
  • Leading Operation Clean Sweep in the UK.
  • Delivering the Recycling Roadmap, identifying the key drivers in domestic recycling to set a vision for the future.

The Minister also addressed the general economic situation, saying: “I know these are tough times, and we are not going to leave businesses in the sector adrift: that is why we have announced the recent Energy Bill Relief Scheme to assist with high energy prices through the winter, shoring companies up – and enabling business to get on with business. After this six-month period, we will seek further support for those who need it most, targeting the most vulnerable sectors.

Finally, the Minister restated the Government’s commitments to decarbonisation and the challenges of net zero.
BPF Director General Philip Law used the opportunity to remind legislators and policymakers that several key threats and opportunities for the sector needed addressing. “Firstly and crucially,” said Law, “it is imperative that the plastics industry is given extended access to the Government’s energy package beyond March. UK plastics companies saw, on average, energy prices recently rise by a factor of 2.3.

Law pointed out that plastics are integral to almost every modern supply chain: “Take plastics away, and the national machine will stop,” he stated before explaining that BPF research had highlighted that future cost increases would be hard for many businesses to absorb.

Law then said that the second opportunity and challenge of the moment involved chemical recycling – a technique acknowledged and supported from all corners of the industry and one that succeeds in recreating pristine ‘second life’ virgin polymer. “Government needs to acknowledge the role of chemical recycling alongside mechanical recycling fully,” said Law, “together with the role of mass balance in verifying the precise contribution of chemical recycling towards achieving targets.

He added, “if the UK government doesn’t get a move on, we will lose hope of any leadership position in chemical recycling and the investment and jobs that go with it. Dillying and dallying have already cost us two major investments.

The third area for timely industrial action involves the recently introduced plastics packaging tax: “It is absolutely crucial,” said Law, “that at least a significant proportion of the Plastics Packaging Tax revenues are invested in the plastics recycling infrastructure so that the recyclate demanded by current and future legislation can be supplied from the UK. Any aspiration to restrict the export of plastic waste will be futile unless we are capable of processing it here. We need improvements in collection, sorting and capacity to provide materials of appropriate quality.

Law also pointed out that the UK should not neglect industrial developments in the wider EU community. “The EU is our major trading partner, and we still have to deal with it every single day. We have our industrial channels of contact with the EU. Still, it is unclear what official, governmental-level assistance we can receive in helping to influence discussions in Brussels, either formally or informally. In our view, ways and means must be sought.

Mark Pawsey MP, a long-time champion of the plastics and packaging sectors, was the Parliamentary host for the reception. Mark acknowledged that for far too long, the plastics industry had been criticised unfairly for appearing to have insufficient regard for the impact of its products on the environment. He acknowledged that the plastics industry, as exemplified by the BPF and its recent actions, is working at pace to improve rates of recycling and do the right thing.

He pointed out that the sector deserves support as one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the UK, achieving £27 billion in sales and being amongst the top ten UK exports. Pawsey noted that there are still too many MPs with mailbags full of constituent and consumer letters about plastics, litter and overpackaging but that it is important to draw attention to the successes of the industry and the hard work of organisations such as the BPF.

Read more from the BPF here

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