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CPI voices concern to UK government over looming raw material shortage

By Joe Whitworth , 20-Aug-2012

The Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI) has joined a number of organisations calling on the UK government to take action over what it describes as a "looming raw material shortage".

The CPI, Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association (MPMA) and the EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, were some of the signatories on a joint letter from the Material Security Working Group sent to the UK government.

The letter warns that if the UK doesn’t develop a stronger strategy to keep valuable raw materials circulating within the economy there will be significant consequences for industry.

The group claims increasing global demand coupled with rapidly degrading ecosystems is already putting pressure on supplies of some raw materials.

Future concern

David Workman, director general of the CPI, told FoodProductionDaily.com the issue had been one the paper industry had been focussing on for a long time.

“It is about the future availability of future resources, the basic raw materials that go into making the packaging could become scarce.

“Corrugated is the most popular form of packaging but the demand for recycled fibres has seen growth from energy from waste sites in the UK and the demand is such that it could represent a threat to supplies of natural raw material.

“The second issue is biomass energy production using wood as a substitute for coal as the main supply which presents long term issues of wood pulp availability.”

Workman added the increase in the population and living standards will lead to an increase in demand for consumer goods and packaging.

“The main issues are availability and cost with not enough attention being put on an action plan.

“Recycled fibre accounts for 70% across all types and in corrugated boxes it is 86%. If we lost that and had to rely on wood it will have a devastating impact on the forestry industry and push up prices," he said.

“We need to identify the materials in short supply and ensure we make better uses of resources that are available and maximise recycling instead of using virgin raw materials.”

Raw material cost

The cost of raw materials has risen substantially in recent years, with commodity price rises in the last decade alone wiping out a century-long decline.

Despite recent fluctuations, material prices are projected to escalate as three billion people join the global middle classes, putting pressure on already fragile and depleted ecosystems, said the group.

Nick Mullen, chief executive of the MPMA, told this publication: "With a tin can or beverage can you can bring it back into the process and the material loop so you don't lose anything.

"It is not so much of an issue for us in getting the raw material, it is about diverting it away from landfill and get it coming back and making sure nothing is wasted.

"From an industry perspective, it is about linking together individual targets and ensuring there is enough to go around."

The group want to see the Government’s Resource Security Action Plan, published in March, strengthened and its ambitions raised.

The measures the organisation is calling for include:

• An Office for Resource Management to deal with the crisis consistently;

• A task force to review existing targets and recommend policy changes to improve recycling;

• A ban preventing recyclable materials being sent to “energy from waste” plants and landfills unless there is an environmental and economic case for doing so.

Gareth Stace, EEF head of climate & environment policy, said: “Government must now step up its ambitions and produce a bolder plan of action that deals with the challenges not just now but in the longer term.

“This is vital not just from an environmental perspective but to ensure a long term sustainable future for manufacturing and the wider economy.”

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