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UK Supermarkets Pledge to Reduce Plastic Packaging

Following increased media coverage around the topic of plastic waste and its negative environmental impact, the UK’s major supermarkets have voluntarily set up the “UK Plastics Pact”. This initiative aims to see all plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

The problem

With a million bottles being bought every minute around the globe, and with this figure set to rise 20% over the next three years, our levels of plastic waste are colossal. And with a plastic bottle taking 450 years to decompose, all those bottles aren’t going anywhere.

And this is indicative of an even wider problem, as plastic bottles only constitute one form of plastic waste. When we shop in a supermarket, the majority of our food items will come with plastic packaging that is thrown straight in the bin.

This waste ends up in the landfill or often in the ocean. The BBC’s documentary Blue Planet recently raised awareness of the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans, which poses a serious threat to marine life and ecosystems.

Action from supermarkets

Under pressure from increasing public backlash against excessive and damaging use of plastic, most of the major UK supermarkets have come together to create a voluntary pact that pledges to cut plastic packaging. The move also comes after talk that the government has been considering making companies pay more towards the collection and recycling of plastic waste.

42 businesses have agreed to support the pledge so far, including Sainsury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Aldi and Lidl.

However, there is some concern amongst critics that the scheme is voluntary, so supermarkets don’t have to opt in or indeed stick to the pact. Supermarkets have been notoriously evasive and secretive when it comes to plastic packaging—some feel that legislation is needed to enforce and regulate changes on plastic usage and waste.

Major supermarket Iceland has not joined the pact—back in January it already pledged to eliminate all plastic packaging from its own-brand products. It states it will be focusing on this “more far-reaching” initiative rather than joining the UK Plastics Pact.

Other steps being taken to cut plastic waste include a forthcoming government bottle deposit scheme similar to that of Germany and other countries. Customers can return their drinks containers using a machine at their local supermarket and receive a small cash sum back. In Germany, where a deposit scheme was introduced in 2003, 99% of plastic bottles are now recycled.

This is of course a great step, although as plastic can only be recycled a limited number of times, moves towards eliminating plastic packaging in the first place, such as the UK Plastics Pact, will have a more positive long-term environmental impact.

Here at Willshee’s, we think that the new pact is great news. Reducing plastic packaging is very important, but where it is used, it is very important to recycle it. If you would like to learn more about our plastic recycling services, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us on 01283 702 340 or at sales@willshees.co.uk.


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