UK plastics industry picks Portland for secret lobbying offensive

Written by David Singleton on 18 June 2018 in News

Michael Gove has made a point of pushing reusable coffee cups as part of his anti-plastics crusade.

The UK plastics industry has turned to Portland to spearhead a secretive PR and lobbying offensive as pressure mounts on politicians to tackle the plastics crisis, PAN has learned.

The British Plastics Federation called in the well-known agency after a competitive pitch that kicked off in March this year. The BPF has over 500 members across the plastics industry supply chain, including polymer producers and suppliers, additive manufacturers, recyclers, services providers, end users, plastics processors and machinery manufacturers.

The move appears to be a belated attempted to counter plans by senior politicians to crack down on single plastic use. It comes as the prime minister recently claimed the UK was a "world leader" on tackling plastic waste, highlighting the charges that have been introduced for plastic bags, the ban on microbeads and the announcement in March of a consultation on introducing a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in England.  Plastic straws and cotton buds could also be banned in England as part of the government's bid to cut plastic waste.

One of the most prominent political crusaders against the use of plastic this year has been Michael Gove, with the environment secretary having handed all Cabinet colleagues reusable coffee cups made out of bamboo and made a point of turning up to cabinet meetings with a reusable coffee cup.

It is understood that BPF is keen to stress its members’ recent focus on bio-based and degradable materials and attempts to achieve plastics packaging recycling targets, while lobbying against more punitive measures.

A spokesman for the BPF failed to reply to emails and voicemails, while sources at Portland were also unable to talk about the brief.

One lobbyist from another agency who was aware of the pitch process told PAN: "They were looking to fight back against negative perceptions in the media and among politicians... they felt hard done by and unfairly maligned."

On the other side of the plastics debate, the campaign group A Plastic Planet retains Higginson Strategy which is run by former lobby journalists Jon and Clodagh Higginson.

Co-founder Sian Sutherland said: "We welcome the news that the BPF is taking steps to address plastic's chronic image problem.... As a pro-business campaign, we want to work with the plastics industry to forge a better way forward for a material that has given us so much yet has become a curse on our planet. This means eliminating plastic in food and drink and heralding a new generation of materials nature can easily handle in its place."



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