Celebration – reflection – caution

Dick Searle1smallFrom the Packaging Federation perspective, 2015 turned out to be a very interesting year.

Our successes – Fresher For Longer work with schools; deepening recognition of the role of packaging, leadership and coordination work with litter – have all been well documented and have again been achieved against a diminishing but constant background hum of misinformation and, sometimes, disinformation.

On the positive side, we were delighted, energised and motivated by the application and talent shown by our shortlisted schools in the Fresher For Longer 2015 packaging challenge. As as long as our sponsoring companies and willing schools continue to play their part, the enthusiasm of our youngsters bodes very well for the role of packaging in keeping our precious food resources Fresher for Longer (FFL)

The rejuvenated topic of litter certainly benefitted from the energy and motivation at other end of the age spectrum. We now have a much better picture here, with many good things to look forward to; helped in no small part by the pioneering and creative energies of Trewin Restorick and his team at Hubbub.

After a period of indecision, faction and lack of direction, Minister Rory Stewart has now recognised the groundswell, and has committed the Government to setting a renewed and clearer course, starting this January 6, 2016 with a first meeting for all relevant parties. This is a great start – and look out also for Clean For the Queen, which should really rock the public richter scale in March 2016. One thing is clear. The litter agenda needs to stay ever present and this momentum needs to continue – year after year. The Packaging Federation will play its part to the full.

As said, despite these successes we continue to work very hard in order to counter misdirection and to check backward steps.

For example, EU environmental and industrial policy, indeed the EU project itself, continues to wobble on its axis – and certainly bears very careful watching in every regard. The debate on the EU Circular Economy, for example, has exposed a lack of realism and engagement within Brussels-based directorates; and this needs watching, challenging and correction at most every turn.

And this is a but a taste of things to come. My sense is that 2016 will herald a very challenging period ahead. Our manufacturing businesses – in the UK and Europe – face many clear and present dangers relating to resource scarcity, red tape, and matters of energy supply.

And therefore the Packaging Federation is satisfied that our remit – encouraging facts, awareness, consultation and dialogue – remains as urgent and needed as ever.

We thank you for your support and good efforts this year and we once again look forward to working with you through 2016.

May I wish you a very peaceful and very prosperous New Year.

Thanks again

Dick Searle

Attack is the best form of defence

We are pleased to present here our guest blogger – Trewin Restorick of Hubbub UK

TrewinAs the leader of an environment charity I am usually viewed with deep suspicion by the packaging industry. I can see them mental preparing their defence in readiness for an attack on how packaging is creating the UK’s waste mountain and is littering our high streets. But I am too long in the tooth for that game and have seen too much evidence on how packaging can help cut food waste and is only littered due to the actions of irresponsible citizens.

What surprises me is how poor the industry is at getting these messages into the mainstream. Commercial rivalries seem to undermine an ability to create a coherent story and consequently the industry is constantly reacting rather than generating media events.

I would suggest that now is the time to change the dynamic. The issue of food waste is rising up the nation’s agenda. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste TV programmes have forced supermarkets to up their game. Already we have seen Sainsbury’s announce a £10 million investment in a consumer campaign called Waste Less Save More http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/wasteless which my charity is supporting. Tesco is seeking to stay ahead of its rivals and there have been a plethora of other announcements from Asda and Morrisons.

But where is the packaging industry in this debate? Social media is awash with the need to embrace wonky veg but there is nothing on the benefits of packaging or any consumer advice on how to use packaging to extend the life of food.

Similarly with litter, the charity I run Hubbub UK www.hubbub.org.uk has started to bring together a coalition of companies helping them to share the burden of addressing an issue which generates huge passion and anger amongst people. Our NeatStreets campaign https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er3VhHtN_p0 has focussed on the importance of changing behaviour rather then attacking the companies whose packaging ends up on the street. The packaging industry has been more engaged in this campaign but once again there is far more the whole industry could do to focus the debate on behaviour change.

These two national trends give the packaging industry a fantastic opportunity to get their story into the public debate in a way that is positive and factually based. Grasping this opportunity will require greater collaboration, a willingness to dedicate some time and resource plus an ability to point to independent evidence to support the claims being made.

Missing this opportunity will result in the industry remaining on the defensive and susceptible to emotive attacks from concerned citizens. I would suggest that being proactive would be a far better approach.

Many thanks

Trewin Restorick




Reasons to be cheerful

Dick Searle1smallOut and out inspiration doesn’t often strike this seasoned packaging practitioner during the course of any given working week

However, I can categorically say that last Thursday morning’s event at the Museum of Brands in the company of our Fresher For Longer (FFL) schools competition winners did the job in spades. I suspect that the students from Alfreton Grange Arts College will remember it for the rest of their lives.

Our twelve week programme, delivered by Global Action Plan, had challenged 10 secondary schools to demonstrate their understanding of how packaging protects food on its journey from field to fork and how it helps to keep food Fresher For Longer in the home after purchase. Our resultant campaign saw student teams reach out to 50,000 people including classmates, teachers, families and even to local businesses and local governments.

Alfreton Grange was streets ahead of the other contenders in its ability to listen closely to the FFL brief and then to respond to its needs; creatively and positively and showing an uncanny mastery of the various arts of research, IT and communications, PR and marketing and product design and innovation.

I never hesitate to describe our UK food waste as a scandal – for so it is. Our Fresher for Longer campaign is about meeting that scandal head-on and to do that we need to pull no punches with our food-saving messages. We live in the developed world and should not waste the food we have the privilege of buying.

I was therefore impressed and moved to hear the Alfreton Grange students saying exactly the same thing in their own unique way. Our winning students had taken this central message to heart; they had fully grasped the thinking behind the FFL campaign and had then devised a wide variety of detailed solutions – apps; programmes; containers; awareness campaigns- that had risen to the challenge.

Would that most of our consumer world and part of the food supply chain were like-minded. Alfreton Grange reminded us that focus, creativity and determination can succeed in making changes for the better. Their efforts, indeed, are ongoing and the Packaging Federation will be supporting them at every turn.

In a rueful moment I recalled the difficulties in getting companies to take a moment to step back and engage with these FFL issues and to sponsor schools in this vital FFL project work. All of our schools had much to commend them, including The Warwick School and All Saints Catholic Academy. Ousedale School was also singled out for the Love Food, Hate Waste award.

We hope to run this competition with more schools next year and we plan to try and motivate the supply chain to help us do this. The talent and energy shown by most of the participating students is a timely reminder of who exactly will take our industry and society forward. It certainly behoves us to nurture and support this young talent going forward.

On that note, many thanks again this year to our eight sponsoring packaging companies. They are: Alexir, Ardagh, DS Smith, Linpac, Metalbox Benevolent Fund, Nampak, RPC and Sealed Air.

Our Fresher for Longer programme is led by a partnership including us, INCPEN, Kent Resource Partnership, Love Food Hate Waste and the FDF. Please contact any of these organisations or me directly at the Packaging Federation for further details. We look forward to getting you on board.

Many thanks again

Dick Searle

Learning and listening

Dick Searle6smallIn retrospect it was a keenly contested competition with a lot of energy and spirit. A multitude of topics were embraced – sometimes with more heat than light, most always with zest and enthusiasm

In the end a leading winner was identified and the criteria for that winner’s success were very clear.

I refer of course to the recently concluded Fresher For Longer (FFL) schools programme competition: Ten schools and their sponsor supporters in industry via the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Ambassador scheme took part.

Nearly 200 students were involved overall, supported in the community by a total of 27 STEM Ambassadors. In this way the FFL programme delivered a total of 90 hours of sustainability workshops to students across England and Wales.

Congratulations are now due to Alfreton Grange Arts College (Sealed Air sponsoring) who were this week crowned the Fresher for Longer champions.

Highly commended were:

All Saints` Catholic Academy (Metalbox Benevolent Fund sponsoring)

The Warwick School (Alexir sponsoring)

Meanwhile the Love Food Wate Waste award went to Ousedale School (Nampak Plastics sponsoring)

We now have a winner’s ceremony and presentation at the Museum of Brands, London to look forward to on Thursday June 25th, after which we shall discuss and disseminate some of Alfreton’s winning ideas.

Part of the reason that Alfreton won was that the school really listened to the core detail of the Fresher For Longer brief and stuck to it when devising a range of solutions to the central problem of food waste in the home.

Portion control, apps for menus, control of food stocks and other solutions were part of Alfreton’s project work; well conceived and well executed.

The environmental spectrum is very wide. Materials recycling, planting and growing your own food, eating healthily – enthusiasm for all of these was good to see in our competition entries.

However, the Fresher For Longer (FFL) initiative asked schools to focus on a very specific challenge – using the advantages of packaging to help prevent food waste in the home. Our FFL competition was looking for answers and details in relation to that particular challenge.

Whatever the field – business, life, schools, politics – the art of listening is fundamental: Listening to the customer; reading the exam question correctly, listening to the voter; paying attention to what is asked – these skills are fundamental to success. We were delighted to see them so ably demonstrated by Alfreton Grange Arts College and we look forward to sharing their answers with you at the end of June.

Many thanks again

Dick Searle

Give business a chance

Dick Searle1smallThe upcoming UK general election is likely to be one of the most dramatic and interesting in recent times.

Every trade association and trade body should of course remain politically neutral. And thus far, bodies such as the IoD and the CBI are setting a good example.

However, these coming weeks present both a duty and opportunity for companies and individuals in packaging to fully engage with politicians and the electoral process and to remind all parties of a fundamental truth – that it is business that creates wealth.

We can talk all we like about the decisions and choices to be made in and around the public sector. In other words we can discuss ad infinitum how we spend the public purse. But more importantly, we need to restore a clear reminder about how such a purse is created. Successful business – an amalgam of creativity, innovation, enterprise and many other things – is how, and is the engine of national wealth.

Wealth is not the same as money or taxation revenue. The truth is that we have nothing to spend if we have not earned it or created it through business. For this reason business needs to be healthy. It also needs to be free of misguided regulation and administration. Many politicians need to be mindful that the Hippocratic oath – ‘First do no harm’ – applies every bit as much in this arena as in medicine.

As importantly, the majority of politicians could and should become literate and enthusiastic in the positive qualities that business brings.

Our packaging sector has much to help them with in this regard. We are certainly among the most creative of manufacturing sectors. We are also counted among the top ten UK manufacturing industries and we contributes over £12 billion annually to the UK economy.

From this moment on therefore, and up until polling day, I hope that many of our number will engage with the political parties and local prospective candidates; reminding them of the positive qualities of business and that we need every possible opportunity for growth.

In practice, this means letter-writing, meetings, work through the local chambers of commerce and invitations to visit and tour local factories.

In the next two months there are opportunities here to influence the national business debate for the better. I urge you to take them.

Many thanks

Dick Searle







Just the beginning….

Dick Searle2smallIt is good to be able to play out the year on a high note.

After a sustained and ongoing campaign this year we are pleased to report that the Co-operative food store, with support from the Welsh Government, has launched a two month Fresher for Longer (FFL) pilot campaign at its store in Porthcawl, Wales.

Not only does this move acknowledge the work and learnings of the Fresher For Longer programme, it is also the first public affirmation of the (WRAP) Waste & Resources Action Programme’s commitment to make FFL an integral part of its popular Love Food Hate Waste campaign.

Last week we saw over 500 Co-op Porthcawl shoppers receive our FFL waste-saving hints and tips. The shoppers also pledged to make changes to the way they use and store food; practices that could save them up to £700 a year per family.

This re-booting of our FFL campaign in Wales is timely, welcome and significant. For one thing, it means that FFL will remain a key future part of WRAP’s plans. For another thing, this two-month pilot will provide considerable consumer data, which can then be used in helping spread good FFL practice throughout further regions and other retailers.

Love Food Hate Waste is also now undertaking additional research into consumer awareness and attitudes to food waste and food packaging. These findings are expected to be revealed in late Spring 2015.

I said at the time of the FFL launch that the UK’s current performance relating to food waste was nothing less than a ‘scandal’. It still is. Our society manages to throw away a staggering £12.5 billion every year in food waste. More than half of this total could have been eaten. Packaging and storage are key allies in stopping this rot – and Fresher For Longer is the key campaign through which this can be achieved.

I don’t want to jinx the undoubted progress of the last eighteen months at all. However – in football manager parlance – I do feel ‘quietly confident’ that the terms of the so-called packaging debate have now changed. The ground has shifted, and rightly so.

We are now most concerned with issues of global resource conversation and with food security. Packaging has a vital role to play. Societies are realising that, handled correctly, packaging is a tremendous environmental benefit, and not the opposite. I thank you – our readers – for the role that you may have played in this turnaround.

Our revived Fresher For Longer initiative is but one part of this new beginning.

Thanks again

Dick Searle

Litter – Government needs to lead

Dick Searle1smallIf I had a penny for the number of times that packaging has been scapegoated for the social scourge of litter I would be a rich man.

Let me restate the obvious. Litter is a human and social problem. Packaging is a product delivery solution; increasingly necessary, fundamental and environmental in our world of shrinking and finite resources. Thankfully, in recent years, society has learned that it is a time-consuming mistake to conflate these two.

However, and despite considerable advances to the contrary, human beings still contrive to create litter from packaging.

The UK’s Communities and Local Government Select Committee has been conducting its own inquiry into the matter. Last month The Packaging Federation was pleased to supply it with evidence and with recommendations.

Chief among our recommendations is the message that we need a UK Government strategy on litter; one that would do well to follow the pioneering work of the Scottish legislature. All stakeholders should work together and all litter campaigns should work together. This has not always been the case and an unfortunate amount of public duplication and disagreement has arisen in recent times. A clear and common Government strategy will serve to remove this counter-productive competition between alternative campaigns.

Litter education from an early age is to be encouraged as part of citizenship teaching. The UK has a great trailblazer in this regard with the Little Angels movement, led by Gordon Henderson MP and we should ensure that schools have every opportunity to teach the subject. Work should also continue on practical means for waste disposal. Littering should not be confused with recycling and litter bin design should be reviewed so that product deficiencies do not create litter loopholes or excuses.

As my readers will know, I hold no brief whatsoever for the ‘nanny state’ but litter policing should also be vigorously enforced. It remains a fact that well-publicized prosecutions help to ensure that our public environment continues to improve and to approach the standards of the best worldwide.

As we said last month to the Select Committee ‘litter is not a symptom of the throwaway society. It is a symptom of the behaviour of a section of society which chooses to ignore the societal norms which the rest of us support and cherish.’

Our Government needs to take a lead on this matter – and we need to support it.

Many thanks

Dick Searle