Blue Planet effect sinks Norfolk plastics manufacturer

Managing director Esther Evans (centre) and the team at STM Packaging in Norwich in 2013. The compa

Managing director Esther Evans (centre) and the team at STM Packaging in Norwich in 2013. The company has now gone into administration. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The backlash against single-use plastics has been blamed for tipping a Norfolk manufacturer into administration.

STM Packaging, which made polythene packaging products for a variety of industries and employed 27 people, had seen turnover decline over the past few years but the growing unpopularity of plastic packaging – spurred on by BBC series Blue Planet – along with a 'worsening' financial position pushed it into insolvency, said administrators.

Insolvency experts from Price Bailey in Norwich were appointed on July 13.

Joint administrator Stuart Morton said the market trend away from single-use plastic packaging had exacerbated turnover decline at STM.

'Single-use packaging is not fashionable for environmental reasons so that has had a negative effect on the company's turnover – it dropped quite substantially in recent months,' he said.

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Five years ago it was a different story. STM was turning over around £6m a year, had invested £150,000 in its headquarters in Concorde Road in Norwich and counted Boots, Cow and Gate, GlaxoSmithKline and Manchester United among its customers.

But profits started to suffer, with the company recording a loss before tax of £47,991 in its last available full company accounts, for the year ending May 31, 2014, compared to a pre-tax profit of £127,719 in the previous year.

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By the year ending May 31, 2017 its turnover had dropped to £1.7m.

Company directors told administrators that trading conditions had been challenging.

But one phoenix has emerged from the flames – STM's Northampton-based subsidiary Shirlplass, which it took over in 2011, was successfully sold and has taken on two employees from the parent company. STM boss Esther Evans will also join Shirlplass as managing director.

The administrators are now selling off Shirlplass shares and selling STM's machinery through an online auction.

Mr Morton said: 'There was a prospect of the sale of the company as a going concern but that was not forthcoming. The plan B is to clear the site and sell the equipment, but it has allowed us to trade profitably for a few weeks to make the most of the pay-out for creditors.'

He added that STM's customer and supplier database had been sold to a third party, which also took on two former employees.

A viewing day for the online auction is being held today at STM Packaging in Concorde Road, Norwich.

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