Government agrees it is time to ditch plastic

The issue of packaging waste remains an ongoing concern. In fact, the urgent need for a solution has increased just over the last few years.

A 5p levy on plastic bags distributed at large retailers was introduced in 2015, and the Government is now looking at extending this to all retailers, and increasing the charge to 10p.

Sandwich packaging will also be hit with a levy. This particular packaging is one of the least recyclable as it includes bonded materials and the combination of cardboard glued to plastic makes it impossible to recycle.

The new tax, which is predicted to add 15p to the cost of a pack, is necessary to reduce use of bonded materials, and also aims to have online retailers and home delivery services such as Deliveroo and Amazon pay the cost of dealing with packaging. According to research by British Sandwich and Food to Go Association, around four billion sandwiches are sold every year.

Newspapers are also reviewing their packaging. The Guardian is the first national newspaper to stop using polythene wrappers for its weekend paper, and has introduced a compostable wrapper made from potato starch, even though this will increase its production costs.

Other newspapers are following by example. A spokesman for the Mail on Sunday said: “We are actively investigating an alternative to polythene bags, in particular using a form of paper packaging.”

Locally, in Oundle, the taxes apply to shops such as Tesco, The Co-op and Waitrose, which has also entirely eliminated disposable cups. Beans Coffee Stop has been aware of the issues surrounding packaging for a while and has been using fully recyclable cups for over a year.

A recent study has shown the plastics levy to be effective. There was a thirty percent drop in the number of plastic bags found on the ocean floor after the levy was first introduced for single-use
plastic shopping bags. Another study shows that the actual use of plastic bags has been reduced by nearly ninety percent.

Retailers may choose how the use the funds collected from each bag and many donate those funds to environmental causes. Over the next ten years, an estimated £730 million will be raised for good causes, with £60 million saved in litter clean-up costs. The UK economy will gain an overall benefit of over £780 million.

The UK’s target for 2020 is for at least fifty percent of household waste to be recycled. The current recycling rate for England is forty-five percent.

While changes are being made by major companies to make recycling easier, individuals must also make an effort to put the environment, not convenience, first.

Lily Hunter
May 2019