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Plastics Pact - how will it work? 26/04/2018

National

More than 40 companies have signed up to a pact to cut plastic pollution over the next seven years.

The firms, which include Coca-Cola and Asda, have promised to honour a number of pledges such as eliminating single-use packaging through better design. They have joined the government, trade associations and campaigners to form the UK Plastics Pact.

The signatories are responsible for more than 80% of plastic packaging on products sold through UK supermarkets. One of the promises which companies, such as consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble and Marks & Spencer, have signed up to is to make 100% of plastic packaging ready for recycling or composting by 2025.

Led by the sustainability campaign group WRAP, the pact is described as a "once-in-a lifetime opportunity" to rethink plastic both to make use of its value and to stop it damaging the environment.

The set of pledges to tackle plastic pollution over the next seven years include:

  • Eliminate difficult or unnecessary single use plastic packaging through better design
  • Make 100% of plastic packaging reusable or recyclable or compostable
  • Make sure 70% of plastic packaging is recycled or composted
  • 30% of all plastic packaging to include recycled material

What is the problem with plastic?

The problem with plastic is that most of it isn't biodegradable.Each year, 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40% of that is single-use - plastic we'll only use once before it's binned.

The other problem is that there have been some concerns recently raised by researchers about the safety of plastic and food. Products such as cling film, plastic containers and drinks bottles contain phthalates which are used in plastic production. Research shows that low level exposure can affect reproductive development, particularly in young boys, and a US study has found a link between exposure to phthalates and increased risk of diabetes and obesity in men. 

What can you do to avoid plastic?

Food safety is a priority for any food and drink businesses, which is why plastic has been used for so long. How can you stay safe whilst using sustainable packaging?

Big businesses have joined the pact and aim to reduce their plastic use. Starbucks will begin to use biodegradable straws in a selection of its outlets, Coca Cola say they will collect and reuse their plastic over the coming years. 

As a small business, you may feel like a drop in the ocean but being sustainable appeals to customers and does make a difference to the local environment. 

Some options:

  • Paper bags
    Paper is widely and easily recyclable in the UK and can be used without adding extra chemicals. US firm Lamb Weston have recently switched their plastic packaging for oven chips to tite-pak paper bags which they hope will divert 30-million pounds of packaging material from the landfill to the recycling stream annually.

  • Biodegradable 
    There are a wide range of biodegradable, environment friendly packaging options including Vegware which can be recycled with food waste. They produce paper cups, napkins, bin bags, trays and more.

  • Sheep's Wool Insulation
    Puffin Packaging, from Leeds, have created a food grade recyclable polythene which is lined with sheep's wool which keeps food cold for 24 hours. They make postage pouches, boxes and box liners. 

  • Reusable Containers and Bags
    Encouraging customers to bring their own containers and bags to take your products home in reduces the amount of packaging you use. Offering a discount for customers who do this is a great incentive. Rafi's Spicebox are a great example of this. 

  • Bees Wax Wrap
    Beeswax Wraps have developed a range of cotton wraps infused with beeswax which acts like cling film. The wraps are biodegradable and therefore better for the environment. 

  • Edible Packaing
    This might be a bit crazy, but it is definitely innovative! Evoware have developed a range of Seaweed based packaging which can be eaten. They also make 'Ello Jello' which are edible cups and plates for food service. 

Scientists have also recently discovered an enzyme which eats plastic. PETase can break down material plastic in just a few days. 

 

 

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