Food businesses tackle plastic waste

Some of the UK’s largest supermarkets have signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, a new voluntary initiative to slash plastic waste. Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Aldi, Lidl, Waitrose and Tesco have all signed up to the new industry-wide initiative that aims to make all plastic packaging recyclable, recycled or biodegradable by 2025.

What does the pact involve?

The UK Plastics Pact is voluntary and does not contain any enforcement mechanisms. Despite this, its signatories make a number of pledges to reducing plastic waste between now and 2025, including:

• Ensuring all plastic packaging is reusable, recyclable or biodegradable
• Eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic through better design
• Including recycled plastic in at least 30% of all packaging
• Guaranteeing that 70% of plastic is effectively recycled or composted.

These targets have been welcomed by environmental campaigners, including organisations such as Friends of the Earth, but some have also warned that regulation and enforcement mechanisms must be developed alongside the pact to ensure that it proves effective. The UK Plastics Pact website states: “Our throwaway culture needs to change. We need to move away from a linear plastics economy, where we take, make and dispose of plastic, towards a circular system where we capture the value of plastics material – keeping plastic in the economy and out of the oceans.” The website cautions that around 5,000 pieces of marine plastic pollution have been found per mile of beach in the UK.

The future of plastic packaging

The pact’s launch comes as ministers in the UK are considering requiring supermarkets and retailers to contribute more towards waste collection and recycling services for the waste they produce. Currently, UK supermarkets pay less for plastic waste collection and recycling than any other country in Europe, with taxpayers left to cover 90% of the cost, according to The Guardian. The government is expected to announce changes to the system, known as the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) scheme, this summer as part of a wider EU effort to move towards a circular economy.

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