Plastic Pollution

Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson Tim Farron said about the “latte levy”:

“We’ve been calling for this for years and the Conservatives have continued to do nothing – each year over 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away and I now hope a small levy will finally be introduced to slash this waste.”

There is public support for using tax to reduce waste for single-use plastics. Firms that use unrecyclable plastic should be taxed to drive them to use other forms of packaging. This is part of the government target to abolish all plastic waste by 2042. The proposal is to use the funds raised to research into new recyclable/degradable plastics.

As Tim suggested, we need a tax on coffee cups that are very difficult to recycle. This is to deter the massive waste of plastic use that is having such a detrimental effect on our environment. This call follows the successful introduction of the 5 pence tax on plastic bags, by the Lib Dem, that has dramatically reduced their use.

From 2005 firms have had to buy a packaging recovery note (PRN), those firms who manufacture packing waste, to help offset the cost of dealing with the packaging. The PRN was to drive firms to more greener packaging. We, as a party, should push the government to increase the PRN to drive manufacturers to develop and use recyclable plastics.

Ocean Crusaders (Formerly Save Our Seas International) have a mission to make a difference by educating people on the issues our oceans face. Some of the facts that they provide about the plastics in oceans are: –

  • it is now believed that there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometre litter the deep sea;
  • Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year;
  • 100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement, and these are the ones found;
  • There are believed to be 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean;
  • Every year, 6.4 million tonnes are dumped into the ocean.

The British government has pledged to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2043. With the current growth of plastic pollution, whole ecosystems will have been lost by 2043. UK Supermarkets generate over 1 million tonnes of plastic packaging every year (this equates to 25% of the total UK plastics usage). Nine per cent of the plastic is recycled, and 72% ends up in landfills or the sea. From the sea, it is getting everywhere including our food chain.

More than half of the plastic polluting oceans originates from five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, according to the research carried out in the US in 2015. The UN describes the problem by stating if it is not tackled than by 2050 plastic will have the same weight in the sea as fish.

What can be done to reduce the waste? Some of the things that Ocean Crusaders recommend are: –

  1. Reduce Your Use of Single-Use Plastics like plastic bags, water bottles, straws;
  2. Recycle Properly;
  3. Avoid Products Containing Microbeads;
  4. Increased producer responsibility. This is to push manufacturers to develop degradable plastics and implement a zero vision for ocean plastic

What should we do to hold our government to account? We can: –

  1. Contact our MP’s and ask them what they are doing to combat plastic waste. What are they doing to control and reduce the use of plastic by supermarkets and drinks companies;
  2. We should ask for a plan of action with timeline and agencies responsible for delivering them:
  3. Make it a local campaign issue and build support for it so that local authorities also start taking it seriously;

 

* Tahir Maher is the Wednesday editor and a member of the LDV editorial team

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5 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 26th Sep '18 - 4:51pm

    Please note Gardeners’ World on BBC tv has a contribution to make about black plastic, much used in the trade. There is an alternative which Monty Don is trying out. Some plants need to allow light to reach their roots. This alternative is not transparent, nor translucent and should probably be used much more widely.
    Perhaps supermarkets could be urged to use less black plastic for ready meals.

  • Peter Hirst 27th Sep '18 - 5:13pm

    I’d go further and ban single use plastics unless special permission is given for e.g. syringes. Five years warning is ample. Firms would go out of business and good riddance.

  • My local supermarket has a recycling container for plastic lined cartons for such as long life milk and soups. The labels now include plastic lined disposable coffee cups so they can be processed.

  • Richard Underhill 28th Sep '18 - 12:48pm

    Peter Hayes: what colour is the plastic? Black is widespread AND a particular problem, please see Gardeners’ World with Monty Don. He will report back on the use of the new beige plastic plant pots. Lightweight of course.

  • Peter Hayes 28th Sep '18 - 1:26pm

    Richard, the recycling container accepts cartons which always seem to have a white lining. The supermarket I referred to has already replaced almost all plastic bags with paper ones and encourages bring your own container for fish and meat. The problem with black plastic seems to be slowly resolved by other colours that the recycling machines can scan. The problem is take away shops where the customer will be a distance away when the container is empty.

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