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.

Recently Greenpeace tested 13 UK rivers and found that all of them contained microplastics, with the River Mersey being proportionally more polluted than the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

According to the Environmental Justice Foundation, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now estimated to be three times the size of France, and 46% of it is composed of discarded nets and other kinds of fishing gear. They are urging people to write to their MP today and demand new legislation to outlaw single-use plastic now (except for essential medical use), and write to the CEO of the supermarket you use and demand they get rid of plastic and use sustainable, ethical alternatives.

Aside from the environment, plastic could be affecting the health of humans and other animals. The WWF found that the average person ingests the equivalent of a credit card of plastic every week.

From these facts, it's clear that something's got to give. We must change the way that we interact with plastic.

How to avoid plastic waste

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.

Plastic-free Friday

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.

Sir David Attenborough's plastic message

Government dragging its feet over plastic bottle scheme

In March, Greenpeace activists took a message in a 29-foot bottle to Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, to tell him to give people what they want: a strong deposit-return scheme (DRS).

Every year in the UK alone, 5.5 billion plastic bottles aren’t recycled, and many of these end up in landfill or the oceans.

We’ve all seen footage of marine-animals with stomachs full of plastic. A DRS is a simple and effective way of reducing this. 

Image: 29 foot plastic bottle made of recycled bottles being carried by plastic free campaigners drs it reads michael gove on the side
Greenpeace campaigners march the 29 ft bottle to Michael Gove in protest against single-use plastic. The huge sculpture was made up of 2,500 plastic bottles that had been collected from streets, river banks and beaches around the UK by volunteers.

When you buy a drink you pay a tiny bit extra, which you get back when you return the container – so it’s guaranteed to be collected for recycling. It’s so effective, some countries with DRS have seen up to 95% recycling rates.

But in the UK there’s the talk of a weak, watered-down DRS that doesn’t cover all drinks containers - thanks to corporate lobbyists not wanting to pay for their own waste. The scheme may only target drinks of less than 750ml, intended to be consumed on the go, rather than all plastic and glass bottles as well as cans, irrespective of their size.

Make sure Michael Gove doesn’t lose his bottle – email him.

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. EU states still have to back the directive, but is expected to go through in November and be law by the end of the year. 

The proposed directive contains: 

  • A ban on plastic cutlery and plates, cotton buds, straws, drink-stirrers and balloon sticks by 2021, because there are readily available alternatives for them.
  • A requirement that 90% of all plastic drinks bottles will need to be collected for recycling by 2025. Currently, bottles and their lids account for about 20% of all the sea plastic.
  • A requirement that single-use plastic for food and drink containers “where no alternative exists”, like plastic cups, burger boxes and sandwich wrappers, are reduced by 25% in each country by 2025.
  • An amendment requiring cigarette makers to reduce the plastic in cigarette filters by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030. Cigarette filters are a plastic pollutant that is common on beaches. A plan to tackle discarded fishing gear such as plastic lines and nets. They take about 600 years to biodegrade and account for nearly a third of all the marine litter found on EU beaches.

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.

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

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

Advancements in menstrual products

Plastic-free menstrual products campaigner, Ella Daish has produced a plastic ‘tampon applicator identifier’ so you can identify which brand of tampon you find on a beach and post the picture on social media tagging the brand that made it along with the #EndPeriodPlastic hashtag. As we went to press with our guide to ethical menstrual products, Sainsbury’s announced that they were getting rid of their plastic applicators

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