Lancaster University Management School - 54 Degrees Issue 14

Thepressingplasticproblem ISSUE 14 FIFTYFOUR DEGREES Lancaster University Management School | the place to be 26Framingsustainability challenges 42Involving communities in5G 46Beyond the NEET stereotypes ThePlasticPackaging inPeople's Lives teamexplore oneof thebiggest issues facing theplanet

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FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 3 6 In this issue... 42 The importance of engaging Professor KatyMason and Dr Sharon Wagg explain how their work onMobile Access North Yorkshire put the local community at the heart of the huge infrastructure project 46 NEET stereotypes Dr Beth Suttill looks beyond the perceptions of NEETs to discover the individual stories and characteristics beneath. 50 Caste adrift Dr Saurabh Singhal explores how India's caste system creates personal hurdles for lower caste members on their way to educational and employment success. Seeking truly responsible investment Emre Tarimexamines the problems with using abatementmarkets and Socially Responsible Investment to induce green behaviour in business. 18 Justwhat dowemeanwhenwe sayplastic? Dr JohnHardy andDr Matteo Saltalippi explain how there is a big issuewhen it comes to tackling the environmental consequences; knowing just what a plastic is in the first place. 10 The challenges of plastic-free packaging Packaging technologists Ian Schofield and Katie Shepherd share their experiences of replacing plastic food packaging. 14 Are supermarkets the new-age plastic waste processors? Dr Savita Verma and Professor Linda Hendry discuss what retailers can do to address plastic packagingwaste. Skills for net zero in Lancashire If theUKGovernment is toachieve its NetZero2050 targets, thenall regions will have toplay their part. TheWork Foundation’sTrinleyWalker explains. 34 Framing sustainability challenges Professor Jan Bebbington outlines themain issues around sustainable development and human impact on the environment. 26 ACuppaWithout the PollutionProblem PhD researcher ColinHill is working on howcustomers and companies can be encouraged to use and responsibly dispose of a newgeneration of single- use cups without the plastic lining. 30 22 38 Working together to solve real-world problems Dr Alison Stowell, Professor Maria Piacentini and Stephen King explain how the Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives project brings academia and industry together. Plastic: Making our old companion visible Drs Charlotte Hadley, James Cronin and Alexandros Skandalis look at how easy it is to ignore the role of plastic in our lives until something goes wrong.

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It is a privilege to present a wonderful selection of impactful research and valuable insights from across the School's researchers, many of whom I have come to know during my time at Lancaster. As a School, we pride ourselves on making a difference – to the lives of our students, to businesses across the North West of England and beyond, and to society as a whole. Our Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives (PPiPL) project is a prime example of this work, and is the focus of much of this issue’s content. The project works with businesses and groups at all stages of the plastic food packaging cycle, from production to retail to waste management, aiming to improve their understanding of consumer attitudes to packaging, and reduce the gap between attitudes and behaviour when it comes to waste and recycling. The impacts of the work will be felt in industry and by consumers. Project leaders Maria Piacentini and Alison Stowell show us the importance of collaboration between researchers and industry in their article. PPiPL colleagues Alex Skandalis, James Cronin and Charlotte Hadley explain how it can be easy to forget the importance of plastic in our lives – until something goes wrong – and Savita Verma and Linda Hendry examine who is responsible for reducing the amount of plastic waste we produce. Demonstrating the multi-disciplinary nature of the project, John Hardy, from Lancaster University’s Chemistry Department – along with our own Matteo Saltalippi – looks at the difficulties of even defining what a plastic is, and how that must be resolved to aid consumers in their choices. We also welcome Katie Shepherd and Ian Schofield from Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses. The two packaging technologists are part of PPiPL, and they provide an insight into the practicalities of switching to more sustainable packaging in a thriving local company. Of course, we carry our research into issues of sustainability beyond the boundaries of PPiPL. The Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business is at the forefront of much of that work, and Director Jan Bebbington describes where they are focusing their attention this year. The Work Foundation’s Trinley Walker turns the spotlight to Lancashire and the future for net-zero jobs, PhD student Colin Hill provides a fascinating insight into attempts to find a sustainable replacement for disposable coffee cups, and Emre Tarim looks at how efforts to encourage green investments and business practices are hindered by being embedded in the financial system. Beyond environmental sustainability, Katy Mason and Sharon Wagg show how the Mobile Access North Yorkshire project works with communities to ensure the best results for them from 5G expansion, Beth Suttill explores beyond the stereotypes of NEETs, and Saurabh Singhal considers the effects of India's caste system on education and employment opportunities. I hope you enjoy reading about the work we are producing as we continue to play our role as a responsible management school. Professor Claire Leitch is the Interim Executive Dean of Lancaster University Management School. Foreword Welcome to the latest edition of Fifty Four Degrees. FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 5 SUBSCRIBE Subscribe online at

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FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 7 Workingtogether tosolvereal-world problems Working together, academic researchers and industry professionals can make a real impact on the major challenges facing society. Dr Alison Stowell, Professor Maria Piacentini and Stephen King explain how the Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives project brings academia and industry together, and how to build a template for success.

Solutions to societal grand challenges require sustained collaborative efforts from diverse organisations and stakeholders. In the realm of climate change, the UK has the challenge of clean growth. Towards this end, UK Research and Innovation funded the smart sustainable plastic packaging (SSPP) programme to “establish the UK as a leader in smart sustainable packaging and support a reduction in waste entering the environment.” Central to this programme is the emphasis on collaboration between researchers and plastic packaging supply chainmembers – frompackaging producers to final product retailers – to develop and share innovative solutions which ultimately reduce environmental impact. Here at Lancaster University, we are leading the multi-partner Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives (PPiPL) project, exploring how plastic food packaging is embedded in consumers’ day-to-day lives. We are working with eleven industry partners (from retail, supply chain and wastemanagement) to develop insights into consumer, business, and wastemanagement practices, and to drive cleaner, greener growth. Working closely with partners in a co-creative approach creates a virtuous cycle. External voices provide interesting, relevant and nuanced questions that underpin our work. Here are some of the key issues we have identified for successful partnering. IDENTIFYING ‘REAL’ REAL-WORLD PROBLEMS When talking about solutions to global challenges, our experience is that the detail around ‘what the problem is’ comes fromopen, authentic and ongoing dialogue between academics and practitioners. Through regular conversations, we learnmore of the specifics of themeaningful problems for practice, and broaden our thinking about the grand challenges. Without first identifying what the problem is, how can we talk about potential solutions? Reflecting on the development of our PPiPL collaborations, we knewwe were broadly interested in plastics and consumption – it was only through talking to retail partners about their perspective that our focus landed on food plastic packaging as an exemplar to scrutinise consumers’ attitudebehaviour gap. “We are striving to reduce the amount of single-use food plastic packaging we sell through our stores. We believe this researchwill help us ensure that we can please our customers whilst meeting our environmental obligations.” (Booths) “Theprojectwill inevitablyhelp the retail sector understandhowcustomers can beencouraged tousealternative food packagingsolutions and identify opportunities to reduce theoverall volumeof packagingused throughout our supplychains” (Waitrose) Being flexible and open to the ideas and input of the partners was important, and ensured we focused on concerns of ‘real’ real-world relevance for industry. These partner conversations can also act as a catalyst for identifying who else needs to be in the conversation, and ultimately helped us assemble the wider partner network. An openness to new perspectives and views really helped, as did a willingness to reach out to potential new partners when we identified gaps in skills and knowledge. We spent time with each potential partner and listened to what they had to say to ensure there was mutual interest. “As set out in the recent Green Alliance/Circular Economy Task Force report Plastic Promises, there is clearly a real break between consumer intentions and their purchasing actions when it comes to plastic packaging, whilst at the same time a strong perceptionwithin retailers that theymustmake themove away because of consumer interests. This research is a serious attempt to address amajor lack of knowledge in this area.” (IOM3) GOOD KNOWLEDGE EXCHANGE Another key component is the way partners support knowledge exchange and learning across the project. This is important for ensuring there is something of value to the partners and the project. As with setting up relationships, open and regular communications are key, identifying areas of common interest, and creating a feedback loop. Our project needs to be responsive and retain relevance over its three-year duration. Working with partners, we have an enriched understanding of the complexity of plastic packaging and have createdmechanisms for knowledge exchange between and across partner organisations. Our regular partner meetings, as well as formal knowledge exchange events, are important for this purpose. “Understandingmore deeply how people relate to plastic in everyday life will help us structure better collection and re-use campaigns. Engagingwith major industry players through projects like this will help us foster constructive dialogue inwhichwe can feed back some of the real-world difficulties of workingwithwaste materials.” (RELICPlastic) “As thewaste collection authority, we are verywell aware of issues caused by plasticwaste and recognise the 8 | ...there is clearly a real break between consumer intentions and their purchasing actions when it comes to plastic packaging... ‘‘ ’’

solution requires a systemic approach. This project will support us to grapple with the challenge of reducing the volume of plastic packagingwaste.” (Lancaster City Council) Partners are responding and adapting to changes brought about by shifting patterns in the economy, government policy, market demands, new innovations, and civic society pressures. Close working between partners and academics ensures we all develop our thinking. Examples include: the need to stop demonising plastics in white papers, media and research; reflecting on how the word ‘plastics’ does not reflect the complexity of thematerial(s), technical functionality and different uses; how consumers purchase the product not the packaging; and the costs of alternatives – not just financial. “I think theproject hasmorevalue than ever (afterCOP26)with theacceleration tomove towards a low- carbon economy.” (BiotechServicesLtd) “We continue to explore the alternatives to plastic packaging within our brand portfolio and across our business and see the project of great value to our journey.” (Bells of Lazonby Limited) Given the ongoing nature of the relationships, communication and responsiveness is important. So too is sensitivity and adaptation, especially retaining sensitivity to the partners and adapting to organisational changes. Within project teams, especially interdisciplinary teams, it’s important to pay attention to cross-fertilisation and translation of ideas. Finding a common language can be timeconsuming but it is key, particularly when working with partners from different backgrounds. REFLECTIONS ON THE NETWORK Real-world problems require collaborative solutions between industry, civic society and academia. This can helpmitigate unintended consequences by having different voices in the roomand recognising whose voices aremissing. “CIWM has a unique understanding of the sector, and our professional knowledge and trusted reputation enables us to inform and influence legislation and policy, playing a vital part in shaping the future role and reputation of the sector. Having a depth of expertise across the resources and waste sector to support the creation, maintenance and development of all CIWM’s outputs, research and services, we are pleased to support the project.” (CIWM) “SUEZ believes that increasing the circularity of waste in the UK involves system-wide changes that cannot be solved by an individual entity, however large, acting alone. Further, any solutionmust involve both consumer engagement and wider initiatives across the supply chain. Behaviour change is fundamental to success inmany of the day-to-day activities that represent core business to SUEZ and this project has the opportunity to add significantly to this topic area.” (SUEZ) Our networkmembers provide valuable and crucial insights into the issues surrounding plastic packaging. They challenge, stimulate, and feed our thinking, and serve an important sensechecking function for PPiPL, vitally important for delivering solutions to societal grand challenges around consumption of plastics. Dr Stowell is a Senior Lecturer in Management and Sustainability in the Department of Organisation, Work and Technology Dr Alison Stowell and Professor Maria Piacentini are the co-principal investigators for the Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives (PPiPL) project. FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 9 Professor Piacentini is a Professor in the Marketing Department and Director for the Centre for Consumption Insights. Stephen King is a Partnership Development Officer in Lancaster University Management School. Real-world problems require collaborative solutions between industry, civic society and academia. ‘‘ ’’


FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 11 Plastic presentsmany problems in themanyworlds – from litter on the street to unsustainable packaging. But Dr JohnHardy and DrMatteoSaltalippi explain how there is a big issuewhen it comes to tackling the environmental consequences – knowing just what a plastic is in the first place.

A simplified process for the production/isolation of polymers from various feedstocks (e.g. fossil fuel or biomass). The English language is constantly evolving, which presents interpretation challenges due to issues related to a user’s choices or understanding of vocabulary, grammar and expression. One word that exemplifies this is ‘plastic’. Take a look in the dictionary and you will see ‘plastic’ can be either a noun or an adjective: • Plastic (countable noun), any one of a group of materials that when soft can be shaped into different forms, and has many different uses. • Plastic (singular noun), money (i.e. a credit card) to pay for something. • Plastic (adjective), soft enough to be changed into a new shape. When you have different possible definitions, complications are bound to arise, both for experts and the general public. These variations mean ‘plastic’ can be used to describe any material based on polymers (of which there are many examples). Just as importantly, a variety of materials display plasticity – including but not limited to clays and metals at high temperature – while not being what many of us would have previously thought of as plastic. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) is the world authority on chemical terminology. It develops and maintains recommendations that create a common language for the global chemistry community. Their definition of plastic is “a generic term used in the case of polymeric material that may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce costs”. For non-chemists among you, we hope that’s clear. If not, then it might comfort you to know that the IUPAC note that using the term ‘plastic’ instead of ‘polymer’ is a source of confusion even to their expert audience, and thus they do not recommend its usage. So then, let us instead consider ‘polymer’. IUPAC – them again – define a polymer as “A substance composed of macromolecules.” This is hardly the type of language we need to communicate with the general public when it comes to plastic usage and recycling, especially when they go on to define a macromolecule as “Amolecule of high relative molar mass, the structure of which essentially comprises the multiple repetitions of units derived, actually or conceptually, frommolecules of low relative molar mass.” If you were not confused before, the chances are, you are now. A simplified process for the production/isolation of polymers from various feedstocks (e.g. fossil fuel or biomass) is depicted in Figure 1, and rigorous life cycle assessments (LCAs) are necessary to understand the environmental impacts of each individual plastic product. There are multiple initiatives to facilitate us to reduce the amount of waste we create, encouraging and facilitating us to reuse, recycle or compost products. However, just as the term ‘plastic’ comes with many complications, so too the terminology related to recycling and recyclability, (bio)degradation and compostability can be complicated and difficult to 12 | Extraction of crude feedstocks of small molecules from oil/biomass 1 Purification of feedstocks of small molecule building blocks (e.g. monomers) Manufacturing items by polymer processing (e.g. melting, addition of fillers/plasticisers, etc.) Polymerisation of monomers (small molecules) to yield polymers (large/macromolecules) Different polymer architectures Macrocycle Cross-linked Comb Block Copolymer Linear Extraction of biopolymers from biomass (e.g. cellulose, lignins, polyhydroxyalkan oates, silk, starch).

A graphic showing a non-exhaustive list of examples of degradative processes for polymers. interpret for the everyday consumer. That will have an impact on the effectiveness of any initiatives to improve behaviours. IUPAC describes degradability as the “capability of undergoing degradation” via physical and/or chemical deleterious changes of some properties, and a nonexhaustive list of examples of degradative processes is highlighted in Figure 2. It is important to note that while biodegradable polymers are degradable – they can be broken down either biologically or chemically – not all degradable polymers are biodegradable (products that can be broken down by bacteria or other organisms), and polymers made from biomass-based feedstocks (i.e. non-fossil fuel-based feedstocks) are not necessarily degradable, reinforcing the importance of rigorous LCAs when understanding the environmental impacts of products. Waste management is a societal grand challenge. The language used to describe materials has an important impact on the effectiveness of any initiatives to facilitate us to reduce the amount of waste we create, to reuse products, or to recycle or compost products. It is therefore important that steps are taken to simplify this language for people, potentially via policy changes that have already proven effective in energy and other sectors. Perhaps the plastic product production process needs oversight from an impartial externallyaccredited LCA awarding body, ensuring level standards across the board. Doing this will enhance communication and knowledge between consumers, local authorities, waste management companies, recyclers, and all other stakeholders in the post-consumption chain. This will generate better understanding of plastic products and how to effectively reduce, recycle, and/or compost them. FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 13 Polymers Products 2 Examples of polymer degradation processes Polymer degradation yields various smaller molecules Enzymatic degradation Biodegradation (caused by cells, organisms and/or microorganisms) Oxidative degradation Hydrolytic degradation Photodegradation Thermal degradation SUBSTRATE Substrate entering active site of enzyme Eenzyme/substrate complex Eenzyme/products complex Products leaving active site of enzyme PRODUCTS ACTIVE SITE ENZYMECHANGES SHAPESLIGHTLYAS SUBSTRATEBINDS Dr John G Hardy is a Senior Lecturer in Materials Chemistry in the Lancaster University Faculty of Science and Technology. Dr Matteo Saltalippi is a Research Associate in the Department of Organisation, Work and Technology.

14 | PLASTIC: MAKINGOUROLD COMPANION VISIBLE Weencounter plastic inmost arenasof our everyday lives, yetwenever really thinkabout it. DrsCharlotteHadley, JamesCronin and Alexandros Skandalis lookat howeasy it is to ignore the roleof plasticuntil somethinggoeswrong.


When you think about ‘plastic’, what comes to mind? The ballpoint pen you write with? The television you sit in front of? The sneakers on your feet? The floss you pull between your teeth? The packaging your food is wrapped in? For most of us, we don’t give much thought to ‘plastic’ at all, and seldom, if ever, consciously attribute its presence to our personal belongings. Yet, we have been living in the “Age of Plastic” for much of the recent history of our consumer culture. This ubiquitous andmysterious category of materials is consumed and relied upon for all manner of daily activities. Yet, in almost all of its variants and applications, plastic is rarely thought about until something goes wrong. “Useful, convenient, inexpensive, and so common as to be invisible”, the cultural historian JeffreyMeikle recounts in his work AmericanPlastic: ACultural History. “Plastic objects attracted notice only when they broke”. Plastic can attract your notice when a polypropylene shelf in your fridge has cracked, and it is more convenient and cheaper to replace it, rather than try to repair it. Alternatively, you might notice that someone has perforated the acetate window of a sandwich pack you were about to buy, so you choose an untampered one instead. Or it could be that you notice the polyurethane soles of your shoes have started to deteriorate, so you’re off to the shops to buy a new pair. Although, they make plastic apparent to us, these minor inconveniences are rarely overcome in environmentally sustainable ways. When inconvenienced by plastic, it has become normal to quickly replace the offending item and return our thoughts of plastic to the background. But the plastic objects that are replaced still exist, even when they have been “thrown away” and are no longer thought about. “Away” is a contentious concept, as plastic waste never truly goes away– it tends to stick around. We are forced to contend with the stubbornness of plastic in many corners of our local environment, whether the flotsam that becomes more commonplace in our canals and waterways; the broken appliances illegally dumped at the sides of country roads; or the rubbish that cascades down our streets when lifted fromour recycling boxes by strongwinds. In these instances, plastic can once again appear as a troublesomematerial, or what British anthropologist Mary Douglas might call ‘matter out of place’. But beyond its localised visibility, plastic is wreaking perhaps its most significant 16 | ‘‘ plastic is wreaking perhaps its most significant havoc away from our direct line of sight. Giant gyres of marine debris are accumulating in far-flung oceans and seas. ’’

havoc away fromour direct line of sight. Giant gyres of marine debris are accumulating in far-flung oceans and seas. Microplastics have been found in Antarctic ice and deep-sea sediments. Plastic has even been discovered near the peak of Mount Everest. To hasten the public’s response to what can seem like an impending catastrophe, plastic’s visibility is sometimes forced upon us by social actors. Last year, Greenpeace dumped more than half a tonne of plastic waste outside 10 Downing Street to make visible the grotesque amount of plastic rubbish that the UK sends overseas every 30 seconds. Also in 2021, Ali Tabrizi’s documentary Seaspiracy confronted Netflix’s audiences with the stark images of plastic pollution caused by discarded fishing nets and equipment in our oceans. These ultravisual efforts work to arrest audiences’ emotions, thus sparking waves of ‘mainstreammalcontent’ on social media platforms and stimulating a conversation among consumers. Though useful, it should not take massmediatised outrage and popular reactiveness to challenge plastic’s invisibility and demand change from industry and government. Sustainability must work from preemptive not just retroactive measures. Debate and transformative action will be best served from instituting mindfulness of plastic’s presence in our consumption environments and markets long before its problems become visible. Context-specific education, intervention, and regulationmust pre-emptivelymake visible the plastic materials and objects that accompany us on our many consumption journeys before those same items end up causing trouble later. Take the UK’s summer music festivals, for example. Abandoned festival tents account for an estimated 900 tonnes of plastic waste each year alone. That’s not counting themany other cheap and disposable artefacts bound up in the festival experience, fromponchos, sleeping bags and foldup chairs, to beer cups, clamshell food containers, and water bottles. To prevent an escalating issue, retailers must be discouraged frommarketing items like tents as single-use consumables and both organisers and festival-goers should be educated and incentivised to be mindful of their plastic footprint. Likewise, in the build-up to seasonal celebrations over winter, the streets and homes of Britain are transformed into Christmas spectacles, adorned with artificial trees, lights and decorations, and kitchen cupboards and fridges are stocked with self-indulgent food and drinks. Only after the celebrations does plasticmake an appearance when it materialises through the volume of food and gift packaging that fills household waste bins. These instances show us how easy it is to take the growing prevalence of plastic in our everyday lives for granted and how quickly we can cast aside our attitudes towards waste and pollution. FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 17 Dr CharlotteHadley is a Research Associate in theDepartment of Marketing. Dr James Cronin and Dr Alexandros Skandalis are Senior Lecturers in theDepartment of Marketing.;

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FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 19 ARESUPERMARKETS THENEW-AGE PLASTICWASTE PROCESSORS? If supermarkets and retailers are to do their bit to address issues around plastic packaging, they need to find initiatives that work for thewhole supply chain – fromproducers to consumers. Dr Savita Verma and Professor LindaHendry look at how theymight do it.

The need to rigorously reduce single-use plastic and the urgency to effectively recycle plastic packaging is well recognised by industry and consumers alike. And if you ask an average person the following questions: Who is responsible for placing a staggering amount of plastic on the market? Who is responsible for educating consumers around plastic waste and its disposal? You might hear ‘retailers’ or ‘supermarkets’ in response. To put things into perspective, it is important to understand the scale of plastic production and consumption in the UK, and how it is perceived by consumers. According to the SUEZ report, an estimated 215 billion items of flexible plastic packaging – such as confectionery wrappers, pet and baby food pouches, bread bags and crisp packets – are placed on the market each year. Flexible plastic packaging remained non-recyclable for a long time due to the lack of infrastructure to collect and recycle it. As per the SUEZ report, only 10-17%of UK local authorities collect some form of film or flexible packaging. Consequently, the vast majority ends up in residual waste streams, and is sent for incineration or ends up in landfills. There is an increasing amount of evidence that 2017’s David Attenborough-narrated BBC documentary series Blue Planet II drove a sharp surge in the awareness of average consumers around the impact of single-use plastic on the natural environment. According to reports, retailers noticed a huge shift in consumer behaviour. However, there are other studies that show the documentary may not have discouraged consumers from choosing plastic. Indeed, there are many factors that influence an individual’s behaviour to behave in a pro-environmental way – understanding alone cannot drive action Even so, in the light of Blue Planet II, UK grocers were seen to step up to the challenge of tackling plastic waste crisis, placing plastic high on their sustainability agenda. In recent years there has been an increased effort to provide sustainable packaging options in line with their commitment to UK plastic pact. During interviews for Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives (PPiPL) with food industry representatives across the supply chain, including packaging manufacturers, technologists, food processors, wholesalers, product suppliers, policy advisors, and compliance consultants, we found stakeholders recognise the need for collaboration to develop a system wherein retailers, consumers and waste management companies work in tandem. It was striking that Blue Planet was often mentioned by industry participants as the driving factor for organisations to make plastic packaging a priority in their sustainability strategy. The most promising sustainable packaging initiatives to reduce single-use plastic packaging as major retailers and brands trial new initiatives are reuse options, 20 |

including refill on the go, refill at home, return on the go and return from home. RETAILERS ASWASTE PROCESSORS In the absence of kerbside collection systems for certain packaging, such as flexible packaging, some retailers have promoted alternative return schemes for customers in their stores, although on a relatively small scale. More retailers are introducing reuse and refill systems and packaging return outlets. In our interviews, the procurement manager of a leading food retailer said: “I don’t think we [consumers] do a good enough job [recycling], which is why I think... the Tescos of this world then have to step in and say, ‘okay, we’re going to help you. We’re going to make this easy for you. We will put a collection point in our stores every time you shop with us, please bring your soft plastics back with you and we will take it off your hands and we will do something positive with it’.” Recently, WRAP announced the nationwide in-store collection of flexible packaging will be made more prominent and consistent. The UK Government also expects to set higher recycling targets for producers, as well as for initiatives that go beyond recycling and support the circular economy, such as promoting re-use and refill. The imminent packaging tax is already having a cascading effect on different packaging materials, making retailers proactive. Since there is an increasing shortageof plastic for packaging with recycled content, and the prices of those materials are skyrocketing, retailers have taken charge. For example, some have already started investing in recycling plants to help themrecycle soft plastics like crisp packets and chocolate wrappers, which cannot be currently recycled in theUKdue to a lack of infrastructure. Additionally, thismay help retailers produce packaging tomeet their own demands and avoid competing to source thematerials. In that sense, plasticwaste has become a valuable commodity, and it leads us to conclude that retailers are on the path to becoming the new-age plasticwaste processors. NEXT STEPS... Retailers have come a long way, but there is more progress to be made. To engage more consumers and help them adapt to the ongoing changes, retailers not only need to provide easy solutions, but solutions that sustain long-term behaviour change. In the grander scheme of things, it may require retailers to follow a network approach to develop a nationwide system that offers consumers the flexibility to buy in different packaging formats and return packaging to convenient locations, both in-store and online, across multiple retailers irrespective of where they buy from. Retailers will benefit from collaborating to make such an operation commercially viable. Most importantly, retailers have an edge in trying to create a mass behaviour shift as they are capable of offering convenience to consumers by making facilities and processes more accessible. Further, it is important for retailers to develop interventions keeping consumer convenience in mind to avoid unintended consequences that may do more harm than good. For example, consumers driving more miles to find a store that sells in refillable packaging or accepts their used flexible packaging to be recycled. So, if a consumer today might say retailers are responsible for reducing, collecting and recovering plastic packaging, our evidence shows they are making strides in doing just that. Dr Savita Verma is a Research Associate in theDepartment of Management Scienceworking on the Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives project. Her research focuses on how individuals perceive sustainability and howattitudes affect theirmotivation and behaviours, such as green and pro-environmental behaviour. Professor LindaHendry is Head of theDepartment of Management Science, and a Professor of OperationsManagement. Hermain ongoing research interest is in Sustainable Supply Chain Management. FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 21

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FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 23 Thechallenges ofplastic-free packaging Over the past decade, attitudes towards plastic food packaging have changed immensely. Ian Schofield hasworked in the packaging industry for four decades, and shares his experiences of how opinions and practices have evolved.

I’ve been in packaging since 1978, when I trained as a packaging technologist with the Co-op. At that time, I was moving everything in all the factories – from biscuits to margarine to drinks – to plastic. We were moving away frommaterials like cellulose and paper. Plastics were the new solution – they were cheaper and they provided a barrier for foods. All these years later, we’re nowmoving out of plastics and into some of those same natural materials, and some new ones. I’ve worked in packaging all around the world over those 44 years. I was at Iceland three years ago, when they became the first retailer to announce they were going plastic-free – by 2023. It caught the public imagination, and it was all over the press and TV. It sent a message to all the other retailers, and all the other brands around the world, that, we have to do something; we have to turn the plastic tap down. It has since become a much bigger subject. It is about ensuring we have the infrastructure not just to turn the plastic tap down, with alternatives, refills, reducing consumption, but also it’s about looking at the newmaterials, like algae or seaweed, to replace that plastic. Some of them are ready now, some are not. Across all the products in our supermarkets, everything is being looked at – to either replace the plastics, or reduce it as much as possible. If that’s not possible, then it’s about making sure it is part of the circular economy, and it can be recycled, reused. We don’t want it to be turned into benches or tables, we want it to be used again. We certainly don’t want to burn it, and we definitely don’t want to send it to landfill, or overseas. Not only are consumers wanting change, we also have legislation. We’ve got a plastics tax coming to the UKwhich companies will have to pay if there is not a percentage of recycledmaterials – collected at kerbside fromour houses – in our plastics. On hard plastics, likemilk bottles, that’s okay – we are going to be able to do that; on soft plastics, we will not be ready, so all packaging suppliers will be payingmore tax. WIDE-RANGING CONSEQUENCES The shift from plastics has an effect in every area – food service, restaurants, stores. We now have avocado straws instead of plastic; paper bagsat the checkout; Amazon have changed their packaging to be nothing but paper. This has a massive knock-on effect away from plastics – is there enough paper capacity? Even though three trees are being planted for every one coming out around the world, even though it is being made sustainable, because the demand is moving so quickly, we are struggling to get paper and board. That’s why recycling all that paper and board is important across retail, food service, online. Consumers understand that, and do it easily, but when it comes to plastics, it’s a whole different ballgame, with lots of added complications. There will be questions about bioproducts – products that are biodegradable, but there is no kerbside collection for those compostable materials. You might be able to put them in industrial composters, or back in the land, but there is no council collection. Also, if you put bio-products in with plastics, it contaminates the waste. We’re trying to get the circular economy working, to recycle, and that cannot be done if you put bio-products in with it. There are undoubtedly challenges ahead, but just look at the progress in the last five years. Efforts are continuing to ensure businesses big and small are cutting out unrecyclable plastics from their supply chains – as we have been doing at Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses – and there is sure to be innovation and improvement in the next five years and beyond. 24 | Ian Schofield is a packaging technologist with more than 40 years of experience in the food packaging industry. He works with Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses on developing their packaging options. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Mining, Materials and Minerals and is a visiting lecturer at two universities.

Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses have spent the last three-anda-half years working on the transition away from nonrecyclable plastic packaging. Packaging technologist Katie Shepherd has worked with Ian Schofield to lead the charge, and explains the challenges and achievements on the road to new beginnings. Sustainability has always been at theheart of the company – it’s part of theethos. It’s a farming family, andeverythinghas tobe sustainable. But sustainablepackaging hadnot reallybeenon the agenda until the last three-and-a-half years, sincewhen wehave comeon leaps andbounds. Becausewe care sodeeply, wehavegone headlong toconvert thewhole company togoon this journey, andnowwe’re leading themarket. Cheese is oneof themost complicated packaging formats you canhave. Wehave a livingproduct – cheese is still breathing andmaturing.Wehave tomake surewedon’t degrade thatwith packaging changes and keep thequality of our product high. It is amassive task. It’smademore complicatedbecausewe have threemain types of cheese – soft cheese, hard cheese andblue cheese. The cheeses all havedifferent characteristics, differentmaturing stages, all needdifferent breathability rates. The packaging that had been around them, had been there for the 40 years since the business started. It has lots of chemicals around it which can’t be recycled. Now the packaging we use can be recycled, and it was a real challenge to get to that stage. No-one really thought about the packaging before, now it’s done at the same time as the product development. We’ve made it part of everyone’s job. There can be downward pressure from the board saying ‘you have to get on with that’, but that only goes so far. We all need to be on the same page for things to work, you have to believe in what you are doing – it’s for our teammembers’ future, their children’s future. Once everyone understands that, we have had nothing but cooperation. The packaging is much better for the environment now, but for themost part it doesn’t look any different to how it did four years ago. We have been able to keep the same format, using the samemachines. This has kept the costs down, andmade our goals realistic and achievable. Our first step was to have packaging that can be recycled. That’s what we’ve done. None of the packaging could be recycled before, but now every single one of our items can be recycled. Our next stage is to get out of plastics entirely. Consumers don’t want plastic, sowe’re working really hard on testing newmaterials for shelf-life, distribution and all those things. Things aremoving at a rate of knots. More people nowwant to buy British and want sustainability – we canmeet themon all sides. Already, we are planning for Christmas this year and next year, to make sure we are more sustainable than we are now. FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 25 BEFORE AFTER Katie Shepherd is a packaging technologist at Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses, an independent family business based near Preston. She holds a BSc Business Studies degree from Lancaster University Management School. Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses are a partner organisation for the Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives project. They are working on research, trials, and communication with suppliers and customers to move away from non-recyclable plastic packaging, towards recyclable and non-plastic options for everything they supply.

26 | The Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives project is just one element of the sustainability research taking place in Lancaster UniversityManagement School. Professor JanBebbington, The RubinChair in Sustainability in Business, andDirector of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability inBusiness, places these various aspects into thewider frameworkwithinwhich sustainable development concerns emerge. FRAMING SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGES


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Concerns about human impacts on the environment, and what those impacts mean for human wellbeing, are not new. Communities and governments have long known and acted to try to ensure the links between environmental integrity and social/economic outcomes are managed holistically. This was the case for the management of common resources (such as fishing activities) by local communities as well as, for example, the maintenance of forests to ensure supply of timbers for shipbuilding among European colonising powers in centuries past. What has changed in our time, is the scale of such impacts. During the last century, there was an uptick of human use of planetary resources and associated pollution effects, with all measures of human impacts on the planet increasing in the 1950s (this time period is sometimes called the ‘great acceleration’). Activity has always had local effects, but what scientists found is that these effects were also generated at a planetary (earth system) scale. Earth system science focuses on how the planet as a whole functions, and how the interactions between various aspects of the earth systemmanifest (for example: water cycles, the flow of materials, greenhouse gas concentrations and biological diversity). While there are many ways in which these perspectives can be laid out, for the purposes of this article I will highlight three significant aspects, namely: climate change; biodiversity loss and materials flows. Climate change has been universally recognised by governments as constituting an existential threat to human wellbeing, with many countries passing legislation and supporting policy approached to reduce emissions rapidly and move to a ‘net zero’ position as soon as possible. Living in the North West of England, it was impossible to miss that the UK Government cohosted the most recent international ‘conference of parties’ (COP26) in Glasgow, with the next COP taking place in Egypt in 2022. These meetings are part of the ongoing process of decarbonising the global economy in order to try to stabilise global average temperatures and to limit climate-related harm (such as fires, floods and storm damage) across the globe. At the same time, business and other organisations have sought to ensure they reduce emissions from their activities and are in line with global ambitions. Climate change is not the only issue to be addressed, but it is one that intersects with other issues of concern: for example, extinction rates increase as the climate warms. Biodiversity loss is the subject of intergovernmental coordination through the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and EcosystemServices (IPBES). Biodiversity relates to the living parts of the planet, and ‘ecosystem services’ describes how we derive services such as food, materials for making clothing and nutrients essential for good health from the living world. The concerns around biodiversity include species extinction, as well as how changes in how the ‘web of life’ operates will affect societies’ ability to sustain food sources. This is the connection that exercises people concerned with the health of bees and other pollinators, as well as the hidden life in soils that ensure they are full of nutrients that support food production. Concerns around the distribution of living systems are also behind worries around deforestation, as well as the simplification of natural systems such as they are more susceptible to shocks. Concern around material flows has less formal inter-governmental architecture to date, but is increasingly being focused upon. This includes a diversity of issues including the generation of plastics (alongside where they end up after use and how they might affect our health) – as highlighted by the Plastic Packaging in People’s Lives project elsewhere in this issue; the effect of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution (as a side effect of fertilizers which are themselves used to support food production); and the extraction of minerals that underpin much of our technology (such as mobile phones and renewable energy technologies such as batteries). There is no current formal intergovernmental process on these issues but it is likely that one will emerge in the near future. The final observation I should add relates to where people rest within these issues. The short answer is we are everywhere; humankind is not separate from the biosphere, but an integral part of it. This is a new appreciation of what was perhaps known in the distant past, that human societies have to live in harmony with the planet as we depend on nature directly or indirectly, regardless of whether we realise it. While this insight has deep philosophical roots, it also has some practical implications for organisations everywhere and to scholars (such as those showcased from both aspects in this issue) in many relevant disciplines. FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 29 Professor Jan Bebbington is the Rubin Chair for Sustainability in Business, and Director of the Pentland Centre for Sustainability in Business.

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FIFTY FOUR DEGREES | 31 The disposable coffee cup has long been a target for environmental ire. PhD researcher ColinHill isworking on howcustomers and companies can be encouraged to use and responsibly dispose of a newgeneration of single-use cups without the plastic lining. FlatWhite. Holdthe Pollution

Ever since Hugh FernleyWhittingstall waged a war on waste in his BBC show, disposable coffee cups have been living on borrowed time. These cups, offered up by major chains and small, independent coffee shops around the world have come to symbolise the modern trend for creating endless waste that has long-term environmental damage. Single-use coffee cups have been around for a long time, and the latest iterations are made with a polyethylene (PE) lining – a plastic that takes around 450 years to fully break down. Added to that, PE is a by-product oil, derived from crude oil or natural gas, a finite resource. The environmental impacts are damaging both through production and after their use. My work focuses on the challenges and opportunities we face when it comes to replacing the PE lining. I work with a PhD colleague in Lancaster’s Chemistry department, who is working on the science, while I look at how the implementation of newmaterials would reach the market, and the potential barriers involved. CONVENIENT, BUT NOT GREEN The current PE-lined version of the coffee cup is popular mainly in Global North countries, where a focus on health and hygiene made single-use products the preferred option over the last century. Aligned with the popularity of fast food, convenience of eating in cars, and coffee shops – influenced by, among other things, the smash US TV hit Friends, where the central characters are often to be found occupying the comfortable chairs and sofas of Central Perk, and the expansion of Starbucks – the current version of PE-lined coffee cups ensured drinks could be enjoyed on-the-go, offering convenience and keeping consumers safe fromspillages etc. However, in the mid-2010s, environmentalists noted how these cups were difficult to recycle, with most ending up in landfill, and others littering towns and the countryside, causing problems as the cups take centuries to decompose due to the plastic lining. After Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall highlighted the problem, it triggered the UK Parliament to hold a review about the waste fromsingle-use cups. They estimated that 2.5 billion cups are sent to landfill each year in the UK. Over the last few years, many big brand coffee chains started to take steps to reduce the number of single-use cups they offered, including encouraging customers to use reusable cups, or take 32 |