BIRMINGHAM, England — Over 150 senior decision makers from the UK's paints, coatings and printing ink sectors gathered in Birmingham for the annual British Coatings Federation (BCF) Annual Conference. The focus of the conference was on sustainability initiatives and the current state of the economy.

The opening keynote from the UK Government’s Business Department (BEIS) highlighted the government’s growth drivers and net-zero ambitions for energy, chemicals and coatings.

The Bank of England outlined the latest economic forecasts for the UK, predicting the economy will be stagnant for the next four years with inflation peaking at 10% this fall. The bank also predicted that inflation it will drop back closer to 3% by the end of 2023. The conference also heard from DIY expert Steve Collinge, who gave an overview of how the sector is navigating the post-COVID economic climate.

On sustainability, the conference heard about the first global coatings industry’s sustainability report, to be published later this year by the World Coatings Council, followed by MAKE UK, which outlined the vision for achieving net zero in the manufacturing sector.

This was followed by an intense panel discussion on leftover paint recycling and Packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), featuring paint recyclers, metal and plastic packaging suppliers and experts on packaging and waste policy. The panel answered many of the audience’s questions surrounding the challenges and opportunities for paint recycling, and markets for leftover paint. On Packaging EPR, brand owners are faced with a new regime from 2024 that will move the cost of household waste collection and processing to brand owners.

The keynote speaker, Claire Lomas MBE, told her story of recovering from a horse-riding accident in 2007, which left her paralyzed from the chest down. Determined not to give up, she made worldwide headlines in 2012 when completing the London Marathon in a pioneering robotic suit taking 17 days and lit the Paralympic cauldron for London 2012. The conference closed with BCF CEO Tom Bowtell taking to the stage to outline BCF’s highlights of the last year and the challenges facing the sector.

BCF President Guy Williams commented, "The topics of this year’s conference were highly appropriate for the challenges the industry is facing today – really tough economic conditions but a huge focus on sustainability, with paint recycling and Net Zero being key themes for the future of BCF’s work, as well as working with the UK Government to improve the regulatory landscape." Williams closed the conference by thanking lead sponsor Microban, and the other event sponsors, Fenton Packaging, LKAB, Stort Chemicals and Verlingue, for their generous support.

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