5 minutes with Simon Ellin, CEO of The Recycling Association

We chatted to Simon Ellin from The Recycling Association at the beginning of April to get his take on Corona Virus and the packaging industry when the affects of the pandemic were only just starting to emerge. 

1. So, Simon, you are the CEO of The Recycling Association, what is the main purpose of the association?

The Recycling Association is a trade association representing the interests of those who collect and recycle paper/cardboard, plastics, metals and glass and many of them are packaging manufacturers too. Our members are therefore a vital part of the packaging supply chain as companies increasingly look to use more recycled content. We’ve been attending Packaging Innovations for a few years now as we wish to engage with packaging producers to come up with mutually beneficial solutions and better understand the needs of both our sectors.

2. How has The Recycling Association been affected by the coronavirus outbreak?

As an association, we have been pushing for collections of vital recycled raw materials to continue. We know there has been very strong demand from European and UK paper and cardboard mills for fibre that can be recycled into food and medicine packaging for example. With many shops and restaurants closed, this has meant domestic collections have been the main source for this, but we have campaigned to ensure local authorities keep collecting essential packaging materials so they can be recycled into new products.

3. What role do you think packaging will play in the pandemic?

The pandemic has underlined how vitally important packaging is in protecting our food, medicines and medical supplies. Packaging has ensured we have been able to put food on the table and protect drugs and equipment procured by the NHS. That is why we have received so much press coverage on the need for recycling collections to continue to enable us to provide as much content as we can for packaging that protects what keeps us fed and healthy.

4. Of course, this is a time of great uncertainty for many, but have you seen any positives in how the industry or individual companies have reacted to the crisis?

I think we should applaud those people at the frontline who are out there still collecting our recycling and waste bins at this difficult time. Many of our members have been helping to ensure these collections keep going by pooling resources or providing extra assistance when there is a gap in provision. Clearly, there are a lot of heroes out there at the moment including NHS workers, the emergency services, supermarket staff and more, and I hope it is also recognised that those who ensure our general waste and recycling bins are collected are providing a magnificent service.

5. When we begin to return to ‘normal’, what changes do you envision will take place within the packaging industry and in general do you expect consumer behaviours to alter?

Clearly, there will be changes and it is hard to predict what they will be. I hope we learn about the importance of efficiency whether that is thinking about the environmental impact of travelling to a meeting when we have all learned that Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts all offer an alternative way of meeting. But I also hope we learn about the importance of efficient packaging too. If the packaging does the job of protecting the product and is fully recyclable, that efficiency makes everybody’s life easier. In a time like this, those materials that are most efficiently recycled are the ones that have greatest demand and are easiest to process.

6. What role do you think events like Packaging Innovations will play once the industry has resumed back to normal life?

We look forward to returning to Packaging Innovations as an exhibitor and working with the packaging industry to find mutually beneficial solutions to the challenges of creating great packaging that can easily be recycled back into packaging. But when things get back to normal, it will also be great to network with thousands of people again.

To find out more about The Recycling Association and their work, visit www.therecyclingassociation.com . 
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