The UK will throw away 42 billion straws and 10.8 billion wet wipes this year, claims the World-Wide Fund for Nature. In a comprehensive report, the charity also forecasted that we would get through 16.5 billion pieces of plastic cutlery and 4.1 billion single use drinks cups and lids. These alarming statistics come amid mounting pressures on Britain’s food and drink industry to reduce their plastic packaging.
While plastic has long been a growing concern, the publication of this report – along with the popularity of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II – has led to a nationwide panic. Frustrated consumers have been taking to Britain’s supermarkets to protest the amount of unnecessary packaging on products. Tony Mitchell, who led such a campaign outside a Tesco branch in Bath, described the response his team encountered; “The manager was there and he was being distant but friendly and, from what one or two people said, he sort of agreed with this.”
This increasing backlash among consumers has inspired several companies to take action; Evian recently promised that its bottles will be made from 100% recycled material in 2025. Similarly, Sainsbury’s have pledged to halve the packaging used on its own brand products by 2020 while Iceland vowed it would be plastic-free by 2023.
Despite the independent efforts of these brands, the government is reportedly planning a direct intervention into the UK’s plastic waste. They are considering imposing a deposit scheme on all drink bottles, much like those in place in Germany, Norway and Sweden. The proposition would mean that consumers pay a deposit on their drinks which could only be reclaimed once they return the bottle for recycling. This surcharge would apply to all bottles, whether they be plastic, glass or metal. Environmental Secretary Michael Gove articulated his reasoning behind such a drastic campaign;
“We’ve already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans. We need to see a change in attitudes and behavior. And the evidence shows that reward and return schemes are a powerful agent of change.”
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