Less interest and more common sense please

Dick Searle1smallMost of us I am sure are familiar with the old Chinese curse ‘may you live in interesting times’. The evidence of our daily politics and economics would suggest that our world is playing out this curse on a daily basis.

Political leaders most everywhere seem incapable of marshalling the facts of any matter in any sensible and straightforward direction. The confused muddle of our own Brexit debate makes that clear enough. As business, investment and other decisions are suspended pending the June 23 outcome, our debate is surely ‘interesting’ – but not in a good way.

To my mind, other events of recent weeks trigger reminders that our sector’s recent environmental and public perceptual gains continue to rest upon very fragile understanding from those in Government and politics.

The House of Commons Library, for example, recently issued a briefing paper on food waste: It made no mention of the role of packaging in preventing food waste. It gave plenty of detail, however, on so-called ‘packaging waste’. Given the Packaging Federation’s continuing presence in Westminster via our APPG group these oversights and inaccuracies are as dismaying as they are annoying.

Secondly, and contrary to all factual, economic and scientific evidence – the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) lobby now appears to be gearing up for a fresh push in England. This scarcely seems credible in the light of the facts but the DRS arguments now need countering yet again.

Thirdly, the confusions and anomalies of the EU Circular Economy Package also continue to circle and threaten the industry right across the board and throughout the European economies.

In short, there are many gathering clouds threatening to hinder the effective pursuit of daily business. I am reminded that packaging needs our support as much now as ever, not least because the cultural default-setting clearly supports and promotes unscientific and wishful thinking.

It is not enough to note that our society deserves the politicians we get and their actions. Business leaders can be easily inclined to such passivity. However, now is the time for business to up its game with these issues and the political process if we are not to reap the consequences of our indifference.

We also seek a little more mindfulness and memory from those in the legislature: The fact of the matter is that packaging remains within the top ten UK manufacturing industries; provides significant and net environmental benefits to society, and contributes well over £12 billion annually to the UK economy. It needs nurture and promotion – not misunderstanding and threats.

Interesting times demand that common sense make its way to the fore. Alas, we also see that ‘common sense ain’t that common’. More of it has to be found in the coming weeks and months if we are to maintain a sensible course.

Many thanks

Dick Searle

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