Plastic News

We give an update on what companies are doing to get rid of single use and non-recyclable plastic, and tips for how to avoid plastic in your life.

M&S trials plastic-free fruit and veg

Marks and Spencer is launching a trial of 90 lines of plastic-free loose fruit and vegetables.

“M&S were ranked fourth out of the ten biggest supermarkets when Greenpeace assessed their plans to tackle plastic waste, so it’s encouraging that M&S is now being more ambitious when it comes to reducing its plastic footprint. 

“M&S must now go further and introduce plastic-free fruit and vegetable lines in all stores nationwide, and we urge other supermarkets to follow suit.” Elena Polisano, ocean plastics campaigner for Greenpeace UK.

Checking out on plastics

Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency have released a major new league table ranking of how supermarkets are addressing plastic pollution. 

They surveyed the top UK supermarkets and grocery convenience store chains and found that just 10 supermarkets collectively put more than 810,000 tonnes of plastic on the market each year. This is in addition to more than 1.1 billion single-use plastic bags, 958 million bags for life and 1.2 billion plastic produce bags for fruit and veg.

There is also a shortage of plans in place to stem the flood. Most commitments made by supermarkets are weak, with room for improvement even among survey leaders – Iceland and Morrisons.

Image: Greenpeace League Table

The league table found that:

  • Five supermarkets have no specific targets to reduce plastic packaging – Aldi, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose. And of the supermarkets that do have targets, most are moving at such a slow pace that it would take them 20 years to completely rid their shelves of throwaway plastic.  
  • Iceland has the most ambitious reduction targets aiming to get rid of all plastic packaging of its own brands by 2023.
  • Only four supermarkets offer customers some options to use refillable containers. 86% shoppers support the idea of supermarkets moving towards using more refillable and reusable packaging but only Morrisons is showing much promise on it so far. 
  • Greenpeace wants supermarkets to eliminate non-recyclable plastic, like black plastic, by 2019. Most have agreed to do so by 2025. Only four have adopted earlier time frames – M&S and Aldi by 2022; Waitrose and Co-op by 2023. The Co-op currently has the highest proportion of recyclable plastic packaging, at 79%.

Read the full report Checking out on Plastics and sign the petition to tell supermarkets to follow Iceland’s lead and ditch throwaway plastic packaging.

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.

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