PM hopefuls prompted to make the UK plastic free by 2037

NGO A Plastic Planet has today (18 August) challenged Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to commit their government to a strict roadmap for making the UK plastic free by 2037.

Single-use plasticsThe organisation highlights that its Reduce, Refill and Replace Revolution strategy is a ‘ready-made’ framework to improve the UK’s removal of plastic from fashion and packaging.

The launch of this strategy aligns with new polling evidence gathered by consultancy Yonder, which suggests that 71 per cent of the public wants to see more plastic products banned. The same proportion expressed concern that plastic bottles, tubs, and trays may not get recycled into new plastics.

A Plastic Planet reports that plastic is ‘materially unsuited to single-use applications’, therefore new single-use plastic bans should be introduced ‘as early as 2024’ – prohibiting plastic sachets, bags, pots, single-use bottles, and fruit and veg wrapping.

Further proposals outlined by the NGO include requiring large supermarkets to declare annual figures on plastic use across the whole supply chain. According to A Plastic Planet, large supermarkets currently use around 114 billion pieces of throwaway plastic packaging each year.

In addition to this, it has been suggested that big supermarket chains should set aside ‘more than 20 per cent’ of retail floor space for refillable items. This could see a reduction in the volume of single-use plastic bottles, tubs and trays sold for food and personal care items.

Calls for an extension of the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) principle to the fashion industry are also incorporated into the strategy, as synthetic fibres represent over two-thirds of all materials used in textiles. A Plastic Planet predicts that this will reach ‘nearly three-quarters’ by 2030.

The document suggests that the UK could surpass the European Union’s ambitions on plastics reduction by utilising the ‘range of existing legislation’. According to polling, this objective has 65 per cent of the public’s support.

This week saw similar action being taken by Julie James, Welsh Minister for Climate Change, who launched a draft bill banning most commonly littered single-use plastics – including polystyrene takeaway containers, plastic straws and single-use plastic bags.

Sian Sutherland, Co-Founder of A Plastic Planet, said: “As a down payment on global leadership the UK should show the opportunities of Brexit, by going further and faster on taking the UK plastic free.

“The last five years of snail-paced plastic reduction have shown us that it is too hard for industry to do this alone. Government has the capacity to move the market by simply outlawing the use of plastics where viable alternatives already exist, and to catalyse the innovations that will replace other plastics in future.

“If the new Prime Minister does so, they will enjoy very strong public support.”

Conservative MP Derek Thomas added: “Since the 2019 general election, this government has shown its commitment to protecting our environment, taking significant steps to bring lasting change.

“In 2021 the UK hosted COP26, the most significant climate summit since the Paris accords were signed and we have committed to world-leading legislative measures to ensure our planet is protected for future generations.

“The global treaty on plastics agreed in March at UNEA 5.2 is the next stage in the road to a better future. Reduce, Refill, Replace gives us a pathway to ending the scourge of plastic waste. DEFRA should now examine it carefully, and implement as much as possible as soon as possible.”