Ask FWD: Staying sustainable

As wholesalers start tentatively looking towards a longer-term future, environmental issues are going to take centre stage once more. FWD explains what’s in the pipeline and the key points impacting the sector

What legislation around sustainability can we expect that affects how wholesalers operate?
Plenty! The government’s Environment Plan includes a raft of measures to protect the environment, reduce the resources we use and how much of them we waste – and, of course, tackle the climate emergency.

These are really important issues, where does FWD sit?

We fully accept and endorse our sector’s role in delivering the necessary actions needed on sustainability. At the same time, it’s our role to ensure the law is framed in such a way that our obligations are both effective and affordable.

What should we be looking out for?

Anyone operating in Scotland will be well aware that the Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers is due to start next year, although we suspect there may be some slippage there. It’s hard to argue with the intention to improve recycling of single-use plastic, PET and glass containers, but the practicalities of the scheme are a different matter. The Scottish Wholesale Association is part of the scheme administration and has done a great job in representing Scottish wholesalers.

And the rest of the UK?

It’s coming, but not before 2024 at the earliest. There’s currently a consultation under way on this and we’re working closely with Defra on the scheme. Our members stress strongly that it has to be the same as Scotland, or it will be extremely administrative and costly for
anyone operating across the four nations. That would be a nightmare for everyone: wholesalers, suppliers and operators.

What else?

In the past, wholesalers have been excluded from responsibility for the packaging they handle before it becomes waste, on the grounds it’s passing through the supply chain. This is under review and the steer from government is that it is minded to preserve the wholesale exemption. It’s our job to make sure it does.

… and?

How about the Plastics Tax? It’s intended as an economic incentive for businesses to use recycled material in the production of plastic packaging and it will apply to plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic.

Like with the Sugar Tax a few years ago, the choice is to change your behaviour, or pay a premium. It will need an industry-wide effort to reduce single-use plastic and, of course, we’ll be representing the wholesaler view in those discussions.

FWD sustainability