By James Woollard, Managing Director of Polythene UK
Here in the UK – and globally – we are facing a climate crisis on an unprecedented scale. Only earlier this summer, Sir David Attenborough told Parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that the crusade against plastic pollution is at an all-time high in the UK, while 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Gretna Thunberg, inspired hundreds of thousands of students from around 150 countries to walk out of classrooms on September 20th, as part of a Global Climate Strike to call for greater action against climate change.
The swelling international attention on the climate crisis only serves to highlight the severity of the situation, and there is good reason too. One of the biggest culprits of the crisis is plastics, especially single-use plastics and microplastics, the latter getting into everything from our food and drink to the air we breathe. The potentially toxic properties of plastics are contaminating our oceans, killing wildlife and causing unsustainable amounts of rubbish to be sent to landfill. The reality is; plastic is everywhere.
Businesses that work in the plastics sector are being closely scrutinised, and rightly so. Around 40 per cent of plastics are thought to enter the waste stream in the same year they are produced which is a harrowing statistic, especially as there are now 5.25 trillion pieces of ocean plastic debris, which is estimated to treble by 2025.
It is easy to point the finger at plastic producers and call for the banning of plastic altogether, but in the current state of play that’s small-minded thinking and unrealistic. What we should be doing is encouraging plastic producers to offer products of the future today. The world is playing catch up in offering sustainable alternatives to harmful plastic products, but, generally speaking, we’ve made milestone movements towards our long-term green goals to ensure future generations live in an eco-friendlier environment.
Take the plastic packaging industry for example. Plastic packaging accounts for 44 per cent of the plastic used in the UK, but generates an incredible 67 per cent of plastic waste. Environmentalists are calling for supermarkets and shops to ditch non-recyclable plastic packaging on its products as well as the bags offered at the check-out. Even behemoth corporations such as Amazon have recently come under fire for using non-recyclable plastic packaging. No-one is immune to the climate crusade.
While this is a deeply concerning time for plastic packaging producers, it’s also an exciting one; a time where businesses have a chance to come to the fore and make a change, lead the way in offering innovative alternatives.
Major food and drink brands are desperate to avoid the firing line, such as brewer Molson Coors, which has pledged to only use plastics that are 100 percent reusable, recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025 – so there is a market for sustainable plastic packaging producers to operate.
At Polythene UK, we offer flagship plant-based packaging alternatives that ensure businesses and their consumers have peace of mind, knowing they aren’t contributing to the plastic pollution pressure cooker. In fact, a recent study by recycling and waste management company, Viridor, found that 65 per cent of Brits are more likely to purchase a product if it is housed in recyclable packaging.
Eco-friendly products such as PolycompTM, a starch-based compostable polythene that is designed to break down naturally after use, offers an innovative packing solution that doesn’t need to be recycled.
The UK adds more household waste into landfill than any other EU state. The 100 per cent compostable bags aims to change this statistic, being designed to break down within ten days in the right environment, yet are strong and effective during use. In addition, they contain no Genetically Modified Organisms, having been produced free from GMO materials.
Other sustainable packaging alternatives include PolyairTM, one of the only 100 per cent recyclable, carbon neutral materials currently available on the UK market. The product has been designed to improve businesses’ green credentials and dramatically reduce their carbon footprint, while also providing a commercially viable alternative to standard polythene.
This bio-based material is made from sugar cane waste, and it’s the process of photosynthesis as the plant grows that makes the product carbon neutral, meaning the raw material will remain 100 per cent recyclable. What’s more, the sugar cane actively captures CO2 from the atmosphere, while at the same time releasing oxygen – making the material not just green, but proactively green. This allows for businesses to meet legislative requirements and deliver improved environmental solutions.
It can be used for pallet covers, top sheets, bags, wraps and liners, and in terms of practical use, the material is identical to alternatives made from fossil fuels, except being fully recyclable. Another product, PolyliteTM, is an extremely tough, lightweight polythene material that offers substantial cost savings compared to alternative polythene packaging materials. Typically, by delivering the same strength from a thinner multi-layered product, the material can reduce the weight of a company’s polythene consumption by 20 per cent, reducing the amount of plastic waste going into landfill.
Overall, UK businesses have a unique chance to offer something different to consumers, something they demand in this climate crisis. We’re currently experiencing a fast-paced movement away from using harmful plastics, but there’s still an awfully long way to go to appease the rigid demands of environmentalists, while also ensuring carbon footprints and landfill intakes are reduced to a sustainable level.
Alternative plastic packing has undergone a pioneering leap in recent times with cutting-edge products becoming widely available and, more importantly, cost-effective for businesses to pursue. We must continue on this upward trajectory to create a healthy future for businesses, consumers, and ultimately, the planet.
Foxconn chairman says expects “limited impact” from chip shortage on clients
TAIPEI (Reuters) – The chairman of Apple Inc supplier Foxconn said on Saturday he expects his company and its clients will face only “limited impact” from a chip shortage that has rattled the global automotive and semiconductor industries.
“Since most of the customers we serve are large customers, they all have proper precautionary planning,” said Liu Young-way, chairman of the manufacturing conglomerate formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd
“Therefore, the impact on these large customers is there, but limited,” he told reporters.
Liu said he expected the company to do well in the first half of 2021, “especially as the pandemic is easing and demand is still being sustained.”
The global spread of COVID-19 has increased demand for laptops, gaming consoles, and other electronics. This caused chip manufacturers to reallocate capacity away from the automotive sector, which was expecting a steep downturn.
Now, car manufacturers such as Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co have cut output as chip capacity has shrunk.
Counterpoint Research says the shortage has extended to the smartphone sector, with application processors, display driver chips, and power management chips all facing a crunch.
However, the research firm predicts Apple will face a minimal impact, due to its large size and its suppliers’ tendency to prioritise it. Apple is Foxconn’s largest customer.
Foxconn is looking at other areas for growth, including in electric vehicles (EVs), and Liu said their EV development platform MIH now had 736 partner companies participating.
He expected it would have two or three models to show by the fourth quarter, though did not expect EVs to make an obvious contribution to company earnings until 2023.
Liu also said the company was still looking for semiconductor fab purchase opportunities in Southeast Asia after not winning a bid to take over a stake in Malaysia-based 8-inch foundry house Silterra.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard and Jeanny Kao; Writing by Josh Horwitz; Editing by William Mallard and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
EU seeks alliance with U.S. on climate change, tech rules
By Sabine Siebold and Kate Abnett
BERLIN (Reuters) – Europe and the United States should join forces in the fight against climate change and agree on a new framework for the digital market, limiting the power of big tech companies, European Union chief executive Ursula von der Leyen said.
“I am sure: A shared transatlantic commitment to a net-zero emissions pathway by 2050 would make climate neutrality a new global benchmark,” the president of the European Commission said in a speech at the virtual Munich Security Conference on Friday.
“Together, we could create a digital economy rulebook that is valid worldwide: a set of rules based on our values, human rights and pluralism, inclusion and the protection of privacy.”
The EU has pledged to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, while President Joe Biden has committed the United States to become a “net zero economy” by 2050.
Scientists say the world must reach net zero emissions by 2050 to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times and avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
The hope is that a transatlantic alliance could help persuade large emitters who have yet to commit to this timeline – including China, which is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060, and India.
“The United States is our natural partner for global leadership on climate change,” von der Leyen said.
She called the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol a turning point for the discussion on the impact social media has on democracies.
“Of course, imposing democratic limits on the uncontrolled power of big tech companies alone will not stop political violence,” von der Leyen said. “But it is an important step.”
She was referring to a draft set of rules unveiled in December which aims to rein in tech companies that control troves of data and online platforms relied on by thousands of companies and millions of Europeans for work and social interactions.
They show the European Commission’s frustration with its antitrust cases against the tech giants, notably Alphabet Inc’s Google, which critics say have not addressed the problem.
But they also risk inflaming tensions with Washington, already irked by Brussels’ attempts to tax U.S. tech firms more.
Von der Leyen said Facebook’s decision on a news blackout on Thursday in response to a forthcoming Australian law requiring it and Google to share revenue from news underscored the importance of a global approach to dealing with tech giants.
(Additional reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Robin Emmott and Nick Macfie; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
Packaged food giants push direct online sales to gauge consumer tastes
By Siddharth Cavale and Nivedita Balu
(Reuters) – Packaged food giants including Kraft Heinz, General Mills and Kellogg are pushing sales of their products to consumers directly via their own online channels, in a quest to gather more data about shoppers’ purchasing habits.
Velveeta-cheese maker Kraft Heinz saw its e-commerce sales double in 2020, now representing more than 5% of its global sales, Chief Executive Miguel Patricio said at the virtual Consumer Analyst Group of New York (CAGNY) conference this week.
The company sells Heinz baked beans and tomato soup by subscription or in bundles directly to consumers on a “Heinz To Home” website in the United Kingdom, Australia and Europe.
Sales on the site are “giving us valuable insights into consumer behavior, enabling us to quickly test and learn from innovations,” Kraft’s head of international business, Rafael de Oliveira, said at the conference.
Kraft would continue to use the site as a channel to generate strong sales in developed markets, he said.
The company also counts sales of its products through marketplaces such as on Amazon.com and Walmart.com as part of its e-commerce sales.
U.S. shoppers spent on average $1,271 buying groceries online last year, 45% more than they did in 2019 as the pandemic spurred shopping online, according to market research firm Earnest Research. In contrast, the average dollars spent in stores rose only about 7% to $3,849.
PepsiCo sells products including Doritos, Quaker oats and Gatorade directly to consumers through two websites, pantryshop.com and snacks.com, both launched in 2020.
Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston said that more than 45% of the company’s capital investments over the next few years would be dedicated toward manufacturing capacity, automation, and a “ramping up of investments in our e-commerce channel.”
As major online retailers including Amazon.com and Walmart.com continue to gather valuable data on shoppers, many packaged food manufacturers are keen to gather their own data on shoppers, too.
“COVID (has) simply accelerated our digital growth and has provided us with yet another source of data and insight,” Monica McGurk, chief growth officer at breakfast cereal maker Kellogg Co., told the conference.
Kellogg, producer of Corn Flakes as well as Pringles chips, said on Wednesday it had launched a direct-to-consumer website focused on digestive wellness. The group plans to sell its new Mwell Microbiome Powder for gut health via the site to gather data on customer interest before it launches the product more widely.
E-commerce sales have doubled in the past year and now represent about 8.5% of the group’s $13.77 billion in annual sales, Kellogg said.
Pillsbury dough-maker General Mills also sees the benefits of tracking consumer habits more closely.
“We’re aggressively investing in data and analytics. We are gathering unparalleled insights from the first-party data we collect through our brand websites,” General Mills’ Chief Executive Jeffrey Harmening said at the conference.
On its Bettycrocker.com website, General Mills provides hundreds of recipes using Betty Crocker cake mixes and frosting. The site leads people to the closest store or an online retailer where they can purchase the products, thereby generating data for General Mills on what a particular customer from a certain zip code is buying. The company does not sell the food products directly on its website.
Consumers, however, may have to shell out more if they shop directly from brand websites.
Prices on the two PepsiCo sites, for example, were generally higher than those on Walmart.com or Amazon.com, Reuters checks show. On Walmart.com, for example, a 10 oz pack of Doritos Nacho Cheese was on sale for $2.50 compared to $4.29 on Pepsico’s website.
Kraft Heinz offers tins of soup, beans, pasta and baby food bundled into packs ranging from six to 25 items and costing between 10 and 20 pounds ($14.01-$28.03) on its UK website. It told Reuters the relatively higher prices of items and bundling of packs than on some other online marketplaces was to be able to eke out a margin after including delivery costs.
“Longer term, we see real value in this channel to be an insight and data channel for us,” Jean-Philippe Nier, head of e-commerce for Kraft Heinz’s business in the UK and Ireland, told Reuters. People are more prepared to order directly from manufacturers than they were before. The time is now.”
Graphic: Direct online sales to cross $20 billion in 2021 – https://graphics.reuters.com/PACKAGEDFOODS-ECOMMERCE/rlgpdexngvo/chart.png
($1 = 0.7137 pounds)
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Vanessa O’Connell and Susan Fenton)
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