Restricted Travel for Packaging Waste
Many of us have had to cancel holidays, business trips and family visits. Plans have changed with immediate effect and we’ve had to adapt. We need to rethink how we undertake everyday activities.
This sudden change also occurred in the waste management industry. For several decades, much of Europe’s recyclable waste was sent to China. The shipping containers that were filled with goods for the west, returned full of our used plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, textiles, electrical components and aluminium cans.
Changes to Recycling in China
By 2010, China was processing 270million tonnes, equating to 45%, of the world’s waste. As businesses and householders, we felt good about filling our recycling bins, rather than landfill. The reality was that we were simply handing the problem over for others to deal with.
For some in China, this was a lucrative business. Cardboard boxes, electronic parts and aluminium cans have a value. The trouble is that China was also receiving hazardous and contaminated waste. The environmental impact of this was noted and action was taken.
In 2013, Green Fence came into force. This national policy put restrictions on the type of waste that could be sent to China. This was followed in 2017 by National Sword and was stepped up a gear in 2018 with Blue Sky. Although waste imports have not been completely banned, the restrictions are now so tight that it is too costly to sort the waste before sending.
When National Sword was introduced, China went from processing 60% of the world’s plastic waste to 10% in one year. It forced European countries to reconsider the current practice and process for recycling and drove up the cost of managing waste.
Switching to Sustainable Packaging
UK recycling centres have facilities to process cardboard boxes, but the infrastructure for managing plastic waste is insufficient to meet demand. This is why it is so important to reduce single-use plastic.
Packaging design needs to consider the entire life cycle of the materials. When plastic is used, it should be reusable. When it can be replaced by other sustainable materials, there should be greater pressure to encourage the switch. For example, drinks can be sold in aluminium cans rather than plastic bottles and cardboard takeaway boxes should replace polystyrene containers.
According to the WRAP report ‘Plastic Market Situation’, half of the plastic ever produced has been made in the last 15 years. Whilst 30% remains in use, much of this is single used plastic. Used once, then thrown away.
In contrast, European countries collectively recycled 85.8% of corrugated cardboard and paper waste in 2019. Metal recycling, including cans, was 78.3% and glass 74.1%. These packaging items will be made into new delivery boxes, promotional display stands, drink cans, light bulbs, bottles, jars and more.
The Reality of Recycling
The UK has reached its recycling capacity, so until more infrastructure and reprocessing solutions are adopted, manufacturers, retailers and consumers have to change.
The alternative is extremely damaging. With China closing its borders to waste, many illegal recycling factories were set up in poorer Asian countries including Malaysia. They accepted tonnes of waste but had no facilities to reprocess it. Even the official landfill sites were not properly regulated.
Much of the waste was burnt; without proper incineration, this sent huge volumes of toxic fumes into the air. Other items were simply dumped into rivers. This contaminates the local water supply and eventually leads the waste into the world’s oceans.
Malaysia’s illegal factories have now been closed, but others will spring up in different parts of the world.
Cardboard Packaging Manufacturer
After things return to normal, let’s give some thought to what needs to change. If your company are considering a switch to more sustainable packaging, Aylesbury Box Company can help. As manufacturers of cardboard packaging, we create bespoke packaging solutions for businesses. From retail packaging to industrial packaging, we can help your company to effectively protect your goods in sustainable cardboard boxes.
For further information, please get in touch to discuss your requirements; email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01296 436888.