Breakthrough for UK’s Enviro-Point as ‘sustainable STEBs’ gain ICAO approval

By Luke Barras-hill |

Graeme Stewart, CEO, Enviro-Point speaking during September’s TR Consumer Forum in Limassol, Cyprus.

In a notable development for UK-based Enviro-Point, the company is now among an approved list of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) manufacturers and distributors of security tamper-evident bags (STEBs), TRBusiness can report.

Following concerted efforts on its part, Enviro-Point gained approval for its sustainable product from ICAO last month.

“ICAO were really good in getting the approval through before TFWA Cannes,” Enviro-Point CEO Graeme Stewart told TRBusiness. “We can now introduce worldwide to any duty free operator on a phased basis.”

Enviro-Point says the solution it uses draws on the world’s first bio-transformation technology that is utilised in the production of plastic at source.

It means the plastic is able to bio-transform and bio-assimilate within two to three years of its production.

‘Real-life’ testing

“Instead of degrading into tiny plastics, it bio-transforms into a wax,” continued Stewart. “Because of its molecular structure, it can be bio-absorbed by microbes and weather conditions so it leaves zero micro-plastics and zero eco-toxins.

“It’s the only one in the world that has passed BSI testing standards and has been tested in a real-life environment. That for me is key in demonstrating the success of the product.

“A lot of legacy solutions that claim to be bio-degradable have only ever been laboratory tested,” he went on to explain. “There are so many variations in a laboratory compared to a real-life environment. Having this background was key to taking this solution on.”

Asked about the cost increase associated with Enviro-Point’s sustainable STEBs, Stewart offered a comparison with the more traditional carrier bags at duty free retailers.

Enviro-Point now appears on ICAO’s STEBs manufacturers and distributors list. Source: ICAO.

“It is going to be a little bit more expensive than a standard plastic carrier, but if they are using paper, it is going to be cheaper and better for the environment,” he noted.

“One duty free operator recently shared the price of their other solutions for carrier bags – paper, cassava, PET – and we came in cheaper than all three and that’s because [the sustainable solution] can be incorporated within the existing manufacturing process. You have the benefits of plastic – strength, durability, lightweight….. it has a low carbon footprint compared with paper and compostables.

“The biotransformation technology just makes up a very small proportion of the plastic. So there is a little extra cost, but a smaller extra cost.”

According to ICAO’s website, ‘only STEBs that meet ICAO specifications and are truly tamper-evident, regardless of the method of attempted infiltration, may be considered as STEBs that are ‘good for security’.”

LAGs (liquids, aerosols and gels) and STEBs – the categories of which include products sold in duty free and travel retail shops – were introduced past security screening points following a terrorist plot targeting a US-bound aircraft in 2006 that led to a ban on all liquids carried onboard airlines.

The DF&TR industry worked closely with the European Commission in the wake of the incident to develop a system whereby passengers travelling within the EU and transferring at EU airports, plus Switzerland and Norway, could carry products bought from duty free and travel retail stores through security provided, they were sealed in STEBs.

Liquids restrictions in UK ‘could end in two years’ time’

Under current rules, passengers are restricted to carrying LAGs in their hand luggage of no more than 100ml, contained within one-litre, transparent, resealable bags.

LAGs were introduced by ICAO after the 2006 exposure of a terrorist plot that used liquid explosives to target aircraft. STEBs consequently emerged to provide transfer passengers with an exemption on the volume restrictions of liquids purchased at airport retail outlets or onboard aircraft.

In the past week, reports have surfaced following a story broken by The Times that UK airports are trialling advanced 3D scanning technology to replace current 2D screening as part of a review.

The paper, which reports an announcement is due before Christmas, quoted Heathrow Airport as saying it had been given a deadline of mid-2024 to implement the new 3D scanners as part of an expansion at Terminal 3.

Should that date prove correct, it could lift current security restrictions on passengers’ hand luggage that necessitates the need to screen liquids of 100ml in small bags and transfer laptops to separate trays.

However, it is understood that the government has yet to confirm an official date for introducing such technology when existing rules could change.

Approached by TRBusiness, the Department for Transport (DfT) said it is considering the position on the future screening of liquids and electronics being carried through UK airport security checkpoints by passengers.

This includes whether liquids and electronics may be left in cabin bags when screened, with a ‘number of UK airports’ currently trialling new technology to this end.

A DfT spokesperson said: “Passengers at UK airports must not carry liquid containers larger than 100ml through security, and both liquids and electronics should be taken out of cabin bags at airport security checkpoints.”

Several other airports including Amsterdam Schiphol are already using CT scanners.

Asked about the developments and what it could mean for Enviro-Point’s STEB solution, Stewart added: “Environmentally there is a solution which can benefit now – as a conscious retailer, or airport, why would you wait to act unless sustainability is a tick box exercise?

“In addition, the new scanning technology will be a phased rollout, meaning many regional airports will not be mandated to introduce for a number of years. The equipment, if successful, would be a much needed positive for travel retail – as well as for the environment.

“Enviro-Point chose to introduce our technology into STEBs as there is a clear single-use plastic waste issue. However, once the issue is resolved/removed, we will focus our attention onto our other product lines such as take-out cups, disposable cutlery/straws, pallet wrap etc.”

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