(Posted on 10/10/18)

EFIA hosted its inaugural breakfast meeting on 28th September to discuss the sustainability challenges facing the flexographic supply chain.

A panel led the debate, including the UK Market Director of Smurfit Kappa, Jason Peckham, Nick Smith CEO of Parkside Flexibles and Ian Schofield, Head of Packaging at Iceland, the event attracted over 70 delegates from across the flexo printing industry. The luminary panel was joined by Olga Munroe, head of The Retail Institute, and Richard Mckinlay, Head of Circular Economy at Axion and chaired by Sanjay Patel of The Packaging Collective, formerly of Coca Cola.

EFIA Chairman, Neil Jones, opened the event with a call to action for the flexo industry to join together to create an action plan and strategy to manage the media’s ‘Blue Planet Effect’ on the industry, which is creating both opportunities and challenges for the sector.

Sanjay Patel opened the debate by reflecting the mood of many in the room commenting that there is a lack of momentum on the sustainability topic, poor coordination amongst key stakeholders including manufacturers, media, DEFRA and NGOs, and that the industry needs to ‘move the dial’ on innovation in order to take the industry forward.

Congratulating EFIA for taking the lead for the print sector, Nick Smith commented that it was often the price point expectations for new innovations that blocked their adoption in the market. New solutions in low volumes invariably create premium pricing that brands and retailers are unwilling to meet, when today’s budget conscious consumer “will not pay a penny more for food or its packaging,” stated by Ian Schofield representing the retailers at the event.

Richard McKinlay talked about the challenge that besets the recycling infrastructure in the UK. He confirmed that only 20% of flexible packaging is non-recyclable and inks and coatings are fine too, contrary to common belief and providing a huge opportunity for industry. However, recyclers need to make money and in order to do that an end market is required for the recycled materials, which today is often sadly lacking.

Jason Peckham stated that minimising the amount of materials used in the process in the first place – creating a purer waste stream – and more effective waste management processes was key to the future of the industry. Using the least amount of packaging as possible and designing with the end state of disposal in mind would reduce litter. “Greed and consumerism has fundamentally allowed this to happen in the world of disposable packaging. The younger generation really care about the planet and we need to meet their needs offering the right materials, at the right time, for the right products,” stated Mr. Peckam.

Olga Munroe gave an impassioned speech regarding the Retail Institute’s involvement in driving strategic development of the sector, in coordination with academia, to make the breakthroughs needed. She also talked extensively about the need to balance the food waste scandal which she described as ‘an immoral disrespectful problem’. 

The general conscensus, through much debate, was that targeting packaging for change was acceptable if held alongside consumer education on the true role of packaging and that the flexo, and packaging sector, needed ‘a north star’ to lead the strategy with one voice for the industry. The Packaging Collective was mooted as one such route, with Neil Jones concluding the event with the view that the sector needs collaboration, innovation, legislation and finally consumer education, if it is going to succeed.

To find out more about future Breakfast Meeting events which will be based on the new four pillar approach - collaboration, innovation, legislation and education, or to join EFIA, please visit

EFIA, EFIA Academy, Leeds Beckett University, FTA Europe - We are flexo EFIA, EFIA Academy, Leeds Beckett University, FTA Europe - We are flexo