Plastics policy in the UK needs clarity and reform


On July 13, 2022, Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic, published results from The Big Plastic Count, a national voluntary plastic waste audit of nearly 100,000 UK homes. They found “on average, each household threw away 66 pieces of plastic packaging in one week… [and] if the totals for count week are assumed to be typical, this indicates that UK households are throwing away an estimated 1.85 billion pieces a week, or 96.57 billion pieces a year.” Food and drink packaging made up 83% of the 66 pieces with produce packaging and snack wrappers being the two most common items.

Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic asked the UK government to (i) set a target “to almost entirely eliminate single-use plastic in 15 years” with mandates for corporate plastic reporting and an interim target of 50% reduction by 2025; (ii) ban plastic waste exports; (iii) implement deposit return schemes and extended producer responsibility schemes (EPR) for drinks containers that are consistent across the UK; and (iv) “set an immediate moratorium on new incineration capacity.”

When information from The Big Plastic Count is combined with data from the recycling charity RECOUP about what types of plastic are recycled at what rates in the UK, the report authors found only 12% of plastic gets recycled within the UK. Another 17% is exported where it is often marketed as being recycled. However, the investigative reporting from Bloomberg in March 2022 found that the ultimate fate of exported plastic is questionable.

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Food Packaging Forum, 02-08-22