The latest news on plastic reduction initiatives
Plastic free living doesn’t have to be a major inconvenience in your life. Like all habits, practice and a little bit of patience makes perfect.”
Since Sir David Attenborough showed us the impact of human activity on marine life in the final episode of Blue Planet 2 there have been a plethora of campaigns to raise awareness and help tackle the problem. Episode 7 depicted Albatrosses ingesting plastic, a Hawksbill Turtle trapped in a plastic sack and showed how plastic pollution is killing marine life through chemical contamination.
In fact, there is so much plastic in the oceans the BBC crew stated there were rarely moments where they didn’t come across plastic litter on their dives, even in the remotest areas. And even felt compelled to intervene when they witnessed the Hawksbill Turtle trapped in a plastic sack.
Recently, Sir David delivered the People Seat Address to world leaders at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), also known as the Katowice Climate Change Conference where he outlined the importance of making real change happen.
The British Government published its 25-year plan to improve the environment where they announced extending the 5p plastic bag charge to small shops and encourage plastic-free supermarket isles. But there are several things missing.
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs mentions waste four times in his short forward to the report, but there is no tangible plan or policy for how the government will move the dial on recycling1. A 25p charge on disposable coffee cups and bottle collection schemes were also not mentioned, despite them being tried-and-tested initiatives.
Here are some examples of past and recent implemented initiatives to reduce our plastic intake:
Bags for life
Waitrose was the first British Supermarket to launch bags for life in 1998. And from April 2008, Marks & Spencer started giving their bags for life away for free2. They are more durable and replace single use. When the bag is worn out you can replace it with a free bag for life, and the supermarket will manage its end-of-life responsibly.
5p carrier bag charge
Wales was the first UK country to introduce a 5 pence single use carrier bag charge in October 2011, followed by Northern Ireland in April 2013, and Scotland in October 2014. England introduced a 5 pence charge for single use plastic carrier bags sold by large retailers on the 5th of October 20153.
Overall, the research has shown that the English plastic bag charge has made a strong and positive impact on people’s behaviours and attitudes3 with an 85% decrease in the usage of plastic bags.
The ban on micro-beads
On 9 January 2018 the British Government implemented a ban on the production of plastic microbeads. A ban on the sale of products containing micro-beads came into force on 19 June 2018.
Reverse vending machines
In 2018 Morrisons, Iceland, Tesco and Coca-Cola announced a trial run of reverse vending machines. The Coca-Cola instalments were trailed from July to October in collaboration with Merlin Entertainments at Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland. Iceland recently announced that 300,000 plastic bottles were recycle as a result of their trial, paying customers 10p per bottle4,5.
M&S Plastic-Free Produce Trials
In January 2019 M&S launched over 90 lines of loose fruit and veg completely free of plastic packaging in a trial at its Tolworth store. Trained greengrocers will offer customers advice as they select from two aisles of fruit and veg free of plastic packaging. The trial also extends to more perishable items such as soft fruits and berries, and will use compostable and reusable packaging for the items they have selected for the trial9
New innovations are becoming available on the market with the aim of replacing single use plastic. Here are some examples:
- HydraChill is a UK business, established to trial and develop a system which could help radically improve public ‘on-the-go’ access to fresh, chilled drinking water. UK made, HydraChill Water Refill Stations were initially piloted in cooperation with DwrCymru Welsh Water, Northumbrian Water and Thames Water in a series of trials designed to guide and inform on suitability in a range of locations and configurations6. The units have demonstrated unparalleled performance capability and huge user popularity and became the first to offer Transport for London commuters free drinking water in a project supported by The Mayor of London and Thames Water6 – www.hydrachill.com.
- Splosh is a UK business based in Hay-on-Wye, a small market town in the historic county of Brecknockshire in Wales. Their focus is to reduce single-use plastic bottles by offering a refillable service for their range of eco cleaning products. The bottles come ready filled and you can order refills via their app which are delivered directly to you. You can also send back the refill bags which they will reprocess and use again – splosh.com.
- Refill is an award-winning campaign to prevent plastic pollution at source by making it easier reuse and refill your bottles instead of buying a new one. They offer the Chilly’s X Refill bottle, a modern and stylish alternative to single-use plastic bottles, with a high-performance technology and eco-friendly benefits of a traditional flask8 – www.refill.org.uk
SOURCE: 1The Guardian, 2Wikipedia, 3Cardiff University, 4Huffpost, 5The Independent, 6HydraChill.com, 7Splosh.com, 8Refill.org.uk, M&S9.