Update on Plastic

  • 4th September 2018

Theresa May Plans to Double Plastic Bag Tax

The plastic bag tax which has been in effect since October 2015 has had a massive affect on the amount of single use plastic bags handed out by supermarkets. In total, 13 billion plastic bags have been taken out of circulation in the past two years. Theresa May wants to take it one step further and extend the ban to smaller retailers and for all shops to charge 10p. She announced this as part of the government’s plan to tackle plastic pollution. 

A consultation will be launched later this year, the government said. Almost three billion bags are supplied by small and medium sized companies in the UK every year. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, smaller retailers already charge a minimum of 5p for plastic bags.

Studies have suggested that the tax has helped lower marine and beach pollution. The Marine Conservation Society found in 2016 that the number of plastic bags found on UK beaches fell by 40% since the 5p tax was brought into effect. The tax was “was hailed as a panacea to stop bags from killing whales, turtles, fish and seabirds”.

It is up to the individual retailer to decide what do with the proceeds from the tax. The government laid down a “clear expectation” the profit made will go to good causes, such as, charities, local causes and health or environmental causes. From a government survey, it was found that 4p from every single-use bag sold was donated to good causes. There are a number of reasons why the full 5p doesn’t get donated; the 5p charge includes VAT which goes straight to the government and retailers deducted “reasonable costs” such as admin and training.

To keep retailers in check, the government imposed a law that they need to keep a record of the number of plastic bags sold and what is done with the money earned. Failure to comply can lead to fines of up to £20,000.

Biodegradable plastic

With the war on plastic still raging teams at University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin have found a new blend of biodegradable plastic that can breakdown in your home composter. The two plastics, when mixed; polycaprolactone and polylactic acid, which normally need high temperatures for breakdown, created a new type of plastic which can be put in your composter at home.

It is estimated that only 15% of plastic packaging, which includes bottles, films and cartons, produced are recycled. It means that there is a massive amount either sent to a landfill or littered on our streets and oceans. This makes this new compostable plastic very exciting, as it opens up new possibilities for waste reduction.

Supermarket’s Commit to Plastic reduction

A number of UK supermarkets have taken steps to reduce the amount of plastic packaging on their shelves. Tesco now stock cans of water and pledge to ban non-recyclable plastic by 2019, M&S are phasing out plastic cutlery and Aldi

In April, 40 major business including, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi signed the “world first” UK plastics pact, in which they pledged to eradicate single-use plastics from packaging. The pact, hopes to eliminate “problematic or unnecessary” single-use plastic packaging, and want all plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable, and also ensuring that at least 70% of packaging used gets recycled.

The Refill Revolution

Water bottle refill points are popping up all over the UK. Major UK shopping centres have launched refill initiatives where customers can fill their bottle for free in shops such as Lush, Caffe Nero, and Lakeland amongst others. London are also rolling out the installation of public water fountains in stations, museums, parks and other venues. 20 have been installed already and figures from the Mayor’s office show they are proving extremely popular. The equivalent of 16,000 water bottles has been dispensed from Liverpool Street Station in less than a month. There are also other UK towns and cities doing the same, Plymouth, Chester, Durham and Newcastle just to name a few.