Fresh from being the first country to enact a ban plastics cups, cutlery and plates (which comes into effect in 2020), France decided to raise the bar last month by making unrecycled plastics bottles more expensive.

Part of the country’s pledge to use only recycled plastics by 2025, France’s secretary of state for ecological transition, Brune Poirson, has said that it will increase the cost of products packaged in non-recycled plastics, and a deposit-refund scheme for plastics bottles will be introduced at some time in the future.

In the UK, the packaging recovery notes (PRN) system came in for further criticism, this time from the National Audit Office (NAO), which claims that potential fraud and errors are responsible for inaccurate data in the UK’s recycling of plastics waste. The government watchdog claims that the amount of packaging waste recycled is likely to have been exaggerated.

Next year could see the launch of the first industrial scale trials of a liquefied waste plastics conversion process developed by Finnish firm Neste, which aims to process more than one million tonnes of plastics waste a year by 2030. Neste is targeting the EU’s ambitious 2030 plastics recycling objectives.

In other recycling news, polymer producer MOL Group signed a strategic agreement with German recycler APK AG, which includes supporting APK in the completion of its Merseburg plant. APK was again in the news when it teamed up with Royal DSM to address the end-of-life stage of the lifecycle of a multilayer PE/PA6 packaging film using its Newcycling process.

Danish packaging converter Faerch Plast became an integrated packaging supplier with the ability to recycle food trays on an industrial scale after it acquired Dutch firm 4PET Group.

The biggest packaging acquisition of the month (and of many, many months!) was Amcor’s almost $7 billion purchase (what’s $200 million between friends?) of US rival Bemis, which will create the world’s biggest producer of flexible packaging. Expect a long completion process for this one as it seeks to gain regulator approval.

Other deals included AptarGroup’s $555m acquisition of speciality protective packaging provider CSP Technologies, Italian cooling machinery maker Eurochiller’s purchase of UK-based IsoCool, and Canadian firm Intertape Polymer Group’s decision to buy Polyair Inter Pack for $146m.

Coveris Group continued the realignment of its business portfolio with the sale of its rigid packaging business to equity firm Lindsay Goldberg, while Indorama Ventures (IVL) bought a plastics recycling facility in France operated by Sorepla Industrie in response to growing demand for food grade recycled PET (rPET).

The Amcor/Bemis deal put flexible packaging into focus this month, at a time when the packaging industry continues to see high levels of M&A activity, following a record year for deals in 2017. The sale of standalone assets is becoming a more viable strategy in the flexibles business, said investment banking and asset management firm Alantra, adding that the lack of synergies within the sector can impact economies of scale.

Poland, meanwhile, continues to be home to the fastest-growing suppliers of flexible packaging in Europe, output increasing by 5 per cent during the last year, claimed PCI Wood Mackenzie. The country has benefitted from direct investment by multinational food brand owners over the past decade, as well as growing exports of converted materials into Western Europe.

Germany’s Kiefel has created the Kiefel Packaging Division so that it can group all of its relevant activities following a series of acquisitions in recent years. The new division includes Kiefel’s activities in Freilassing, as well as the recently acquired Mould & Matic (Austria) and Bosch-Sprang (the Netherlands).

In investment and expansion news, Austrian converter Alpla made its first venture into Greece with the acquisition of Argo, a producer of bottles, dispensers and closures, while Texas-based Accredo Packaging embarked on a $100m expansion of its North American plant and the construction of a manufacturing facility in Vietnam.

Cypriot converter Retal is expanding the production capacity of APET film and HDPE bottle closures at its facility in Lithuania, and pigments and colourants producer Ferro Corporation is adding capacity for its ultramarine blue and micronised iron oxide pigments at its facility in Girardota, Colombia.

 

And finally…

The Gulf states are rumoured to be working towards a zero landfill target for reducing plastics waste by 2040, to match European targets, claimed the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA) this month. Currently, only 8 per cent of waste is recycled regionally, with the remainder either incinerated or sent to landfill. With the EU working towards a 60 per cent target for reuse and recycling of plastics packaging by 2030, and 100 per cent by 2040, the GPCA is hopeful that it can match the higher target.

This will require a collective effort from all players along the value chain. It’s a bold move, but one that in the current climate needs to be made.