National Logistics Day: An Interview with Robin Packman

28 June 2022
Zest Recycle

Happy National Logistics Day! To celebrate, we are delighted to share an interview with our resident Logistics Account Director, Robin Packman, on his thoughts on the waste management industry.

How did you get into working in the waste management industry?

It was really by chance, I was recruited as a temporary employee to assist in the management of the waste contract for Tesco back in 2001. I was intrigued at the potential of making a difference that would have positive impacts on the environment, but at the time, focus on environmental issues was really in its infancy. Legislation was being introduced, but with no real understanding or benchmark on how things might work. I remember that, not long after I started, foot and mouth disease ripped through the country’s farming industry, which eventually led to the introduction of the Animal By-Product Regulations (ABP), which was a huge challenging obstacle for the retail/food service industry at the time, as no-one really had much experience of the best practice solution to implement and these were my early experiences in the industry. However, as is often the case, with challenge, can come change and over the years we have developed much more sustainable models and practices for waste and resource management.

How have waste management approaches changed in the logistics industry over the last few years?

If we rewind 20 years, “recycling” was the buzzword and still very much in its infancy, with both businesses and the industry getting to grips with what best practice looked like. However, with the introduction of legislation over the years and the more recent focus on single-use plastics and the impact of packaging on carbon emissions, the emphasis has very much shifted. Companies are facing growing political and consumer pressure to reduce the huge amounts of cardboard and plastic packaging generated throughout the logistics process. Therefore, businesses are much more focused on managing waste further up the waste hierarchy and focusing on options for prevention, reduction, reuse, and ensuring that they are using sustainable packaging with recyclable content.

What do you find most challenging about managing waste in the logistics sector?

There are a number of challenges, first of all aligning with new and ever-changing legislation. The introduction of the Environmental Bill in 2020 has seen the introduction of The Plastic Packaging Tax, which is a step in the right direction, however, there is still legislation being consulted and decided on, which may have a knock-on effect on the logistics industry. Also capturing and implementing best practices through the supply chain and taking that cradle-to-grave approach in the logistics process can be a challenge. For example, when you have drivers on the move up and down the country and waste is being generated and moved around in large volumes. But this is where as a business, we can add value with our expertise in the industry and supply chain network.

How can the waste management industry support the logistics industry in its sustainability goals?

I think moving the waste into a more circular economy, a lot of the waste being generated is from recyclable sources, so finding the right ways to close the loop of what is being generated and disposed of and turn it into a reusable resource, cutting down the need for virgin materials. Packaging solutions can really help reduce carbon emissions through the reduction of packaging used and addressing overuse in packaging. We are currently working with a client in the logistics industry to reduce the packaging of one of their larger fulfilment client’s most popular products to achieve exactly that.

How do you see waste management evolving in the logistics industry over the next 10 years?

There’s a big push and drive to be more socially and environmentally responsible by reducing impacts and carbon footprint. I see this evolving in the future, with full electric fleets, paperless operations, and minimal and reusable packaging, right down to the tape to seal a box! In some respects, this is here now, but like electric cars, its not widespread or the industry norm yet.

? Did you know...

Businesses are legally required to manage their waste in line with the Waste Hierarchy, which means taking steps to reduce, reuse and recycle their waste wherever possible?

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