Once upon a time August was commonly dubbed ‘the silly season’, not for the antics of our public figures, but for the simple fact that most people took their holidays at a time of year which promised sunshine and, you just couldn’t get hold of your business contacts because they were ‘hors de combat’ sunning themselves on a lilo in Spain, or sprawled over a rock on a Greek island.
Not so today! The pressure is pretty continuous. I dare say that the Brussels Eurocrats cleared their desks and pulled down the shutters long ago but here in the UK mobiles are chirping, the Central Bank is still uttering baleful pronouncements on the cost of money, and the PM is gamely dodging the bouncers and googlies being bowled at him from disaffected backbenchers.
This sense of pressure has a lot to do with the fact that London is the epicentre of global news distribution. We just can’t escape it at any time of the day or month! This is compounded by the fact that news is money and the search for, production of and interpretation of news is constantly intensifying as the range of media widens.
An interesting and very relevant feature of the last month or so is the ‘rowing back’ on several pieces of environmental legislation, at least partly the result of the anti-Ulez vote which led to a Tory victory at the Uxbridge by-election. We have seen signals that there might be a re-think of Net Zero Carbon and Defra has even announced it has stopped talking to Greenpeace. Also Zac Goldsmith has abandoned the government in desperation at its climate change policy.
Close to home, the government (together with the devolved administrations) has decided to defer Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging payments from October 2024 – October 2025. The government announcement carried the telling comment that it ‘recognises that there is a risk that the programme could contribute to inflation, on which it is essential that we continue to bear down’.
What does all this mean for the plastics industry? Stop-Start-Stop is never helpful as business requires continuity to plan and invest but on the other hand the introduction of a far from perfect system would have caused chaos. There was clearly more to the announcement than it just being counter inflationary. Much more work really needed to be done on the substance. Which means yet more serious deflection of expert management time and a re-run of old issues.
With Net Zero Carbon there appears to be a growing realisation of the costs of transformation and indeed the impossibility of ultimately reaching a Net Zero situation, globally and indeed nationally, especially when imports from potential free trade partners are weighed into the balance. Labour has also had its commitment to climate action doubted.
Boris Johnson’s hopes of a ‘green industrial revolution’ may have the appearance of being seriously dented but as the coming months unfold and we approach an election, both Conservatives and Labour will be restating their ambitions in their manifestos. Nevertheless the plastics industry’s products in use remain powerful savers of energy and assist significantly in mitigating the effects of climate change, a point we will continue to make strongly with politicians of all hues.
BPF’s preparations are rapidly advancing rapidly for a crowded September and beyond. The BPF will be at Interplas (September 26th–28th) celebrating the Federation’s 90th Anniversary, and it will play a full part in the adjoining conference programme. We will also be exhibiting at the RECOUP Conference on September 28th. Our Annual Dinner on October 12th is already sold out and will feature former Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Ed Balls, as guest speaker. Along the way we will be attending the Labour Party Conference on October 9th in Liverpool, pressing the plastics industry’s huge role in economy and society. High points of the year end will be our annual Parliamentary Reception at the House of Commons to be addressed by Minister Nusrat Ghani MP and meetings with Labour’s Shadow Business Minister Bill Esterson MP. An Enterprise Forum meeting with Defra’s Head of Waste to Value and Circular Economy will take place at the BPF’s offices on November 9th.