Plastic News

What companies are doing to get rid of single use and non-recyclable plastic. Plus tips for how to avoid plastic in your life.

How to avoid plastic waste

Friends of the Earth have a really good website devoted to living without plastic. One of their initiatives is Plastic Free Friday, a similar idea to Meat Free Mondays, where people are encouraged to give up plastic for one day a week, to ease them into a longer term plastic-free life. Join the campaign - pledge to go plastic free on Fridays. 

Plastic-free tips

Have you got any tips to share about how to live a plastic free life? Let us know and we’ll publish them on this page. Email enquiries{at}ethicalconsumer.org or post on our Facebook or Twitter

Here’s a few to start you off:

  • Avoid packaged vegetables by buying loose or getting a veg box; 
  • Carry a reusable cup, bottle and shopping bag; 
  • Get your milk delivered in glass bottles rather than buying plastics ones;   
  • Use tupperware boxes instead of clingfilm; 
  • Avoid coffee capsules which cannot be recycled.

Perhaps you could start off by sending us your tips about how to have a plastic-free Christmas.

Supermarket news

In response to Waitrose announcing that they will remove all plastic bags from their stores by March 2019 (but replace some with compostable bags), Elena Polisano, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace UK said: “Removing all plastic bags is a sensible move by Waitrose, but retailers must focus on moving beyond packaging that’s designed to be used once then discarded, rather than swapping one disposable item for another. 

Image: pointless packaging
Credit: Greenpeace

The Co-op’s pledge on plastic will see all its own-brand packaging become easy to recycle by 2023. But that’s not a ban on single use packaging just a ban on non-recyclable packaging. 
It has also promised to use a minimum of 50% recycled plastic in bottles, pots, trays and punnets by 2021. All own-brand black and dark plastic packaging, including black ready meal trays, will be eliminated by 2020. It will also roll out lightweight compostable carrier bags.

Lidl removed black plastic from fruit and veg range in September but that still leaves loads of other products like ready meals in black plastic.

Single-use plastics ban approved by European Parliament

On October 24th 2018, the European Parliament voted for a complete ban on a range of single-use plastics across the union in a bid to stop pollution of the oceans.

MEPs backed a ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks. These items were chosen because there are readily available alternatives for them.

The proposal also calls for a reduction in single-use plastic for food and drink containers like plastic cups.

Items, "where no alternative exists" will still have to be reduced by 25% in each country by 2025. Examples given include burger boxes and sandwich wrappers.

One MEP said, if no action was taken, "by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans".

The European Commission proposed a ban in May, following a surge in public support attributed to documentaries such as David Attenborough's BBC Blue Planet series.

The measure still has to clear some procedural hurdles, but is expected to go through. The EU hopes it will go into effect across the bloc by 2021.

The UK will also have to incorporate the rules into national law if the ban becomes a fully-fledged directive before the end of a Brexit transition period.

MEPs also tacked on amendments to the plans for cigarette filters, a plastic pollutant that is common litter on beaches. Cigarette makers will have to reduce the plastic by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030.

Another ambitious target is to ensure 90% of all plastic drinks bottles are collected for recycling by 2025. Currently, bottles and their lids account for about 20% of all the sea plastic, the European Parliament report said.

Sir David Attenborough's plastic message

Anti-plastic campaigns

Supermarket packaging

In September, Greenpeace volunteers and shoppers have been handing items of single-use plastic packaging back at tills in over 60 supermarkets across the UK, with notes to store managers calling for action to reduce excessive throwaway packaging.

UK supermarkets generate more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year. Shoppers were encouraged to remove unnecessary plastic packaging from items they had purchased and leave it at the checkout, handing responsibility for its disposal back to the company selling it.

Greenpeace UK’s most successful environmental petition is asking supermarkets to reduce the volume of throwaway plastic packaging they produce. It has been signed by over 700,000 people across the UK.

Walkers crisps

Campaign group 38 degrees has been campaigning to get walkers crisps to act faster to ditch its non-recyclable, plastic crisp packets. The inside of a crisp packet may look like metal foil but is in fact metallised plastic film. The packets are not recyclable – beach-cleaning volunteers in Cornwall have retrieved old Walkers packets believed to date from the 1980s and 1990s. 

They have been encouraging consumers to post their crisp packets back to the company. The response was huge, and Walkers have announced a recycling scheme where people can post back the crisp packet in envelopes to recycling firm TerraCycle. 38 degrees is 'delighted' to hear about the move:

"It's proof that public pressure can shift big companies to do more to prevent waste. "The public will be watching to make sure that the new recycling scheme isn't just a PR stunt," said executive director David Babbs.

Image: Walkers Crisps

However, campaigners have questioned whether it is just a short term solution. Walkers have promised to go plastic free by 2025,  but by then they’ll have produced 28 billion more plastic packets that will litter our beaches, our streets, and pile up in landfills. 

Other crisp brands, including KP Snacks (which owns McCoy’s, Tyrrell’s and Hula Hoops), Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, have all matched Walkers’ pledge to make their crisp packets 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025 – in seven years time. But, as the leading brand, Walkers alone make 11m crisp packets a day so going plastic-free would have a big impact.

Sign the petition to encourage Walkers to ditch plastic packaging sooner. 

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