The UK plastics industry has voiced its support for prime minister Theresa May’s long-term plastic waste plan, but has expressed its concerns about failing to acknowledge the benefit of the materials.
In a statement on 11 Jan, the British Plastics Federation (BPF) said it shared the objective of minimising plastics waste through maximising recycling, but said was disturbed by the tone of the strategy set out by the UK leader.
Earlier in the day, May spelled out her 25-year strategy to protect environment, through eradicating “all avoidable plastic waste”.
Unveiled at London Wetlands Centre, one of the key points of May’s plan was to urge supermarkets to introduce “plastic-free” aisles.
“We are very disturbed that the tone of language used in the speech does not recognise the important benefits that the plastics industry brings to the UK, including 170,000 jobs,” the statement added.
By encouraging plastic-free aisles, said BPF, the government is creating an impression that the use of plastics is inherently wrong.
“Typically, food waste in stores increases by a third without packaging. For example, a wrapped cucumber lasts 14 more days than one that is not,” the BPF statement said.
According to the trade body, cutting out plastic packaging for fresh produce will harm the environment through increased CO2 emissions because the energy used to produce food is much greater than in the packaging protecting it.
The BPF, however, welcomed the government’s plan to fund for plastics innovation.
Other actions on the list include extending the 5p charge for plastic bags to all retailers across England and initiating a “call for evidence” to explore a tax on other single-use plastics.
Welcoming the proposal, the BPF said the calls for evidence would provide an opportunity to bring about “much-needed reform” within the regulatory regime in the packaging recovery and recycling segment.
This, it said, could help “nurture a full-blooded domestic recycling culture that is not dependent upon the export of waste for recycling overseas.”
To conclude, the BPF said it looked forward to working with government to help the UK progress towards a “truly circular economy”.
This, it said, could be achieved by reducing littering, significantly increasing recycling infrastructure, ensuring all packaging used for food and drink consumed ‘on the go’ is captured for recycling, encouraging design for recyclability and the use of recycled material in new low carbon products.