Robert Fell, CEO and Director of the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association, says the current definition of ‘reuse’ excludes containers that are refilled and reused by the consumer.
Here at MPMA, we often talk about beautiful tins: those we have been given, recall from the various packaging awards, or often further back from our own Best in Metal Awards where speciality packaging often provided the standout entries.
And, it transpires, we’re not alone in our appreciation of beautiful tins.
Earlier this year, MPMA conducted research which showed that half of the UK adult population had bought or been given a speciality tin. What’s more, of those who indicated that they had speciality tins in their homes, they typically had not just one tin but three.
“… The current definition of ‘reuse’ excludes containers that are refilled and reused by the consumer. Such containers clearly are being reused, they just don’t have official recognition.
The research also showed that two fifths of those with these tins do not use them for their original use, but go on to reuse them for something completely different. And of those reusing their tins, the average reuse life is seven years.
For a piece of packaging, that is quite some lifespan!
Common reuse lives for speciality tins included food storage, 53 per cent; household items, 46 per cent; DIY items, 35 per cent; grocery items, 26 per cent; toiletries, 15 per cent; and jewellery; 13 per cent.
Spurred by our research findings, we then launched a nationwide hunt online to discover the UK’s most treasured tin.
From over 100 entries we picked a 1935 George V Silver Jubilee tin originally believed to have contained sweets. The tin once belonged to the owner’s grandmother who used the speciality tin to store her sewing kit. The kit also featured a minuscular and rare needle tin made by Serpent Brand. Measuring just under six centimetres, the tin reads ‘English Made Needles’ and features different size needles which are accessed by twisting the lid.
What became clear from the entries we received, and the accompanying comments, was the memories many tins hold for their owners are priceless. They become much treasured items that stay in families often for decades.
So it was very reassuring to us here at MPMA that, despite our line of business, we’re clearly not alone in our love of beautiful tins.
This issue of consumers retaining their purchased or gifted containers is, however, far more important than just being an interesting phenomenon, it has a serious side as well.
Firstly, the current system for monitoring recycling rates of the various packaging materials does not capture containers being retained for reuse. The system assumes that if a container is not recycled, it’s lost to the system, which ironically then counts against that material’s official recycling rates.
Secondly, the reuse of packaging is being widely encouraged by the Government, and featured strongly in its recent Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Consultation. This should be good news for highly decorated metal packs but sadly no, the current definition of ‘reuse’ excludes containers that are refilled and reused by the consumer. Such containers clearly are being reused, they just don’t have official recognition.
This is particularly ironic for our sector as many gift shops already sell empty decorated tins for consumers to purchase for their own use. These tins are made in the same way as their packaging cousins, with the same materials and on the same production lines but, as they are sold empty, they’re not classified as packaging.
However, the moment you use these same tins to sell products in, they are labelled as packaging, yet any subsequent consumer reuse still doesn’t count.
My wish for next Christmas is that it does!
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