The Foodservice Packaging Association has reacted angrily to claims that it has been working to delay policies like extended producer responsibility for packaging.
In a new briefing paper, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) claimed that the association “takes the stance that people, not producers, are responsible for plastic pollution and has been pushing to pause the implementation of UK policies currently being developed, including extended producer responsibility for packaging”.
The campaigners also took a swipe at FPA chair and Conservative MP for Rugby Mark Pawsey for taking a similar stance. They also questioned whether acting as both chair of the FPA and the all-parliamentary group (APPG) for the packaging manufacturing industry presented a conflict of interest for Pawsey.
In a statement sent to Footprint, Pawsey said he is not required to record his FPA role on the APPG register but immediately declared the position on the register of members’ interest and that he has “drawn attention to it on each occasion that I have spoken on matters relating to the sector in parliament”.
The EIA report however references four separate instances where Pawsey spoke on packaging or plastic in parliament but didn’t declare this interest. “This raises serious concerns about how industry lobbying may be holding the government back on taking adequate action over plastic packaging and waste,” warned EIA ocean campaigner and the report’s author Lauren Weir.
Weir told Footprint that she has found literature on the FPA website “that conflates littering and pollution where there have been instances where the citizen and consumer is said to be the one responsible for pollution”. She said this shifts the spotlight away from the polluter pays principle.
In a statement, the FPA aimed to clarify its position – “that people not producers are responsible for litter, which is not the same as plastics pollution”. The association said it recognises the environmental issues around plastic and has been “fully engaged” with the processes to develop policy and legislation to improve recovery and recycling of plastics and to reduce waste.
“Far from opposing EPR, the FPA has campaigned for extended producer reform since 2017,” the statement noted. “Any ‘pushing’ to pause legislation has been undertaken to help manufacturers deal with complex legislation and ensure that they and their customers are ready, and the legislation is effective.”
Indeed, at the recent FPA environment seminar members voiced frustration with both EPR and the plastic packaging tax. Rising prices and the divergence of policies between devolved nations left some criticising that the timelines “are not in line with the real world and what’s happening”. There is no suggestion that Defra is keen to delay these policies further however.
EIA’s report also criticised industry schemes designed to collect and recycle more flexible plastic packaging. “What is clear is that these self-regulating measures and current industry and government investment are nowhere near robust enough to make the necessary impact,” said Weir.
She called for a “timely policy framework that is truly reflective of the plastic crisis we are currently living” as well as a ban on plastic waste exports and a mandatory target to reduce plastic packaging by 50% by 2025 (against a 2019 baseline).