PM Theresa May promises that the UK will become international leaders on environmental issues, as she unveils a 25 year environmental plan.
With plastic pollution at ‘near permanent levels of contamination to the natural environment’, down to humans having produced 8.3bn tonnes of the material since the 1950s, it’s fitting that the plans focus heavily on plastic waste. Proposed policies include plastic free aisles in supermarkets, extending the levy on plastic bags, increased funding for research and a tax on takeaway containers.
After the hugely successful 5p levy on plastic bags, which saw 70% more shoppers switch to reusable shopping bags, May has promised to extend the levy to smaller shops. In a similar vein, we may soon see the levy charged on single-use plastic takeaway containers.
Another plan is to encourage supermarkets to introduce aisles without any plastic packaging, where products would instead be sold loose and collected in your own reusable storage containers. These plans are welcomed by UK consumers after a survey in July 2017 found that nine out of 10 of us demand more plastic free aisles. When comparing the choice to go ‘plastic free’ with dietary preferences like ‘dairy-free’ and ‘fat-free’, where alternative options are widely available, consumers are asking why they don’t get as much of a say about packaging. A number of plastic free supermarkets are already paving the way for zero-waste lifestyles – check out these examples to see how it’s already being done: Bulk Market, London; The Zero Waste Shop, Totnes; and In Gredients, Texas.
With a global outlook, the new plans also outline a new ‘plastics innovation’ research fund and aid to support developing nations in dealing with their plastic problems.
Although environmental groups welcome the ambition of the 25 year plan, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn have voiced concerns about the proposals. The biggest criticism being about the lack of immediate action.
The plans aim to stop all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 but the worry is that this may be far too late. The plastic we have already produced will last for hundreds or thousands of years in landfill, in our waterways or the oceans – where impacts of this pollution are devastating. Studies show that 90% of sea birds have eaten plastic and one in three fish caught in the Channel contain pieces of plastic.
While you wait for the war on plastics to take action, there are plenty of ways to fight plastic waste yourself. At Local Green Points we are engaging residents from across the UK in waste minimisation and we recommend that you:
1) Shop smart – by thinking about the products you buy, you can reduce plastic waste every time you shop. Opt for loose products or those with the least packaging possible.
2) Recycle what you can – lots of plastics can be recycled and turned into something new, preventing the need for production of more raw materials. Check with your local council or the Recycling Locator to see what can be recycled near you.
3) Clean up the mess – no matter where you live, there will be a way you can help clear up plastic waste in your area. You could volunteer for a beach clean, river clear out or local litter pick and your efforts could benefit countless ecosystems.