Over the past few months there has been a lot of much needed discussion about the life cycle of plastic products, consumption habits and recycling rates. As we have previously said, during these discussions there has been a severe lack of talk about why we use plastic in the first place, what the benefits of plastic packaging are and why we need to focus more on how we handle our waste.
The Real Problem
Plastic has a huge number of benefits, especially for packaging – that’s why it’s so widely used! Food packaging for instance, greatly increases shelf life, reduces waste and is lighter than alternatives such as glass or card which would cause up to 60% more emissions through transportation!
The real problem is recycling - or lack of. Infrastructure in this country simply isn’t able to deal with the amount of waste we generate, nor recycle it efficiently or cost effectively. Adding to the problem is too much use of mixed materials which are difficult to recycle and most often sent to landfill.
What’s the Solution?
As well as reducing reliance on on-the-go single use plastics, we need to see a more joined up thinking approach to waste and recycling from councils, government and businesses. Kerbside collections need to be reassessed with a new, unified policy rather than the current disparate system that’s left to local authorities to organise. Public litter bins too need to be accompanied by recycling bins, and more emphasis needs to be put on businesses to take responsibility for their waste – especially shops and restaurants selling takeaway items.
Of course bins aren’t the end of the journey for our waste. We need huge investment in waste management, in both sorting and recycling of waste so that we can stop relying on selling our recyclable waste to other countries. Creating a circular economy is in the best interests for everyone in the plastics industry and would be greatly beneficial to the country, our economy and the planet. Defra calculates that UK businesses could benefit by up to £23 billion per year through low cost or no cost improvements in the efficient use of resources.