Government 'must take stronger action on raw materials shortage'
By Melanie Defries Monday, 20 August 2012
The government must take urgent action on a raw material crunch facing the UK, businesses and environmental organisations have warned.
A letter from the Material Security Working Group, which includes the Packaging Federation and manufacturer’s organisation EEF, calls for the government to set up an office of resource management and to develop a stronger strategy to keep valuable raw materials circulating within the economy.
Raw material prices are predicted to escalate as three billion people join the global middle classes, putting further pressure on depleted ecosystems. According to the group a greater range of materials, from wood, plastic and rubber to rare earth metals, which are used to produce electronic products and low-carbon technologies, are likely to be increasingly expensive in the future.
The group is calling for a ban on recyclable materials being sent to landfills or energy-from-waste plants unless there is an environmental and economic case for doing so.
Packaging Federation chief executive Dick Searle said: "There is a general feeling that resource strategy and security is not taken seriously by the government.
"What struck me during 2008 and 2009 when the recession was arguably at its worst was that raw material prices kept going up. I have not seen that before in the six or seven recessions that I have experienced.
"What’s obvious is that the balance of power is shifting in the world and there is more competition for raw materials. If we want to carry on living to the same standards that we are now then resource efficiency needs to become part of our culture.
"Far too much emphasis is placed on waste when we should be talking about resource. We need to be an industry of responsible industrialists – the world is changing and we need to change with it.
"Packaging should only be going to landfill when it is so contaminated that you can’t do anything else with it."
BPIF chief executive Kathy Woodward said the impending raw materials shortage is "a subject of major global strategic importance" and of particular importance to the print sector.
She said: "What I would like to see is an extension of research and development tax credits to incentivise environmental and sustainable performance and new initiatives along with greater awareness campaigns to publicise those environmental grants that are available."
However, Woodward stressed the need to ensure that any new policies are based on "positive action" and not just "costly bureaucratic processes that place additional costs on UK manufacturers, disadvantaging their production costs against European and world suppliers".
We also need to ensure that this does not fuel a misinformed environmental campaign without any specific benefits," she added.
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