UK businesses make world-first pact to ban single-use plastics

‘Together, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink and reshape the future of plastic’

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Wednesday 23 May 2018 17:02 BST
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More than 40 major businesses have pledged to eradicate single-use plastics from packaging in an effort to tackle the global pollution crisis.

The launch of the UK Plastics Pact comes amid concerns over the impact such waste is having on the environment as it pervades the world’s land, oceans and waterways.

With members across major food and non-food brands – including Sainsbury’s, Nestlé and Coca-Cola – the pact’s participants are collectively responsible for more than 80 per cent of the UK’s supermarket plastic packaging.

As the first initiative of its kind in the world, it is hoped the pact will serve as a template for other countries and spark a “global movement for change”.

The pact, which was welcomed by government ministers and environmental campaigners, consists of a series of targets that the industry as a whole will aim to meet by 2025.

These include the complete elimination of “problematic or unnecessary” single-use plastic packaging by developing new designs and alternative delivery methods.

Other targets include all plastic packaging being reusable, recyclable or compostable, and ensuring that at least 70 per cent of packaging that is used actually makes it to recycling or composting facilities.

There is also a commitment to ensuring 30 per cent of the content of all plastic packaging comes from recycled sources by the target date.

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Led by sustainability experts Wrap, the pact also brings in NGOs and government in a holistic effort to tackle the problem.

“Together, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink and reshape the future of plastic so that we retain its value, and curtail the damage plastic waste wreaks on our planet,” said Wrap CEO Marcus Gover.

“This requires a wholesale transformation of the plastics system and can only be achieved by bringing together all links in the chain under a shared commitment to act.

“That is what makes the UK Plastics Pact unique. It unites everybody, business and organisation with a will to act on plastic pollution. We will never have a better time to act, and together we can.”

The pledge was launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a charity that focuses on the construction of a more circular economy, as the first in what is intended to be an international series of pacts.

Following its launch in the UK, Chile is set to follow suit with a pact of its own later this year.

“We encourage others around the world to help drive this momentum towards finding global solutions to what is a global problem,” said Ellen MacArthur, the organisation’s founder.

In the UK, the move is the culmination of a series of actions in recent months that have seen businesses from Iceland to Wetherspoons taking action to combat plastic waste.

Most recently, the UK’s largest coffee chain, Costa Coffee, pledged to recycle all the plastic-lined coffee cups it sells by 2020, in a move that followed The Independent’s Cut the Cup Waste campaign.

Tackling plastic was a cornerstone of Theresa May’s 25-year environment plan launched earlier this year, and recent government measures to tackle waste have included a bottle deposit scheme and a ban on microbeads.

Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realised if government, businesses and the public work together.

“Industry action can prevent excess plastic reaching our supermarket shelves in the first place.

“I am delighted to see so many businesses sign up to this pact and I hope others will soon follow suit.”

On the launch of the government’s plan, which laid out plans to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042, environmental groups said it contained “fundamental flaws” due to the lack of legal underpinnings.

In response to the launch of the new pledge, groups once again emphasised the need for firm action by the government to ensure compliance.

“Tough action from the makers and marketers of packaged goods is urgently needed to tackle the tsunami of plastic pollution entering our oceans,” said Friends of the Earth plastics campaigner Julian Kirby.

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“The Plastic Pact is certainly a move in the right direction, however government measures are also needed to ensure everyone plays their part, and that these targets are actually met.

“It’s great to see so many leading businesses pledging to tackle plastic pollution,” said Greenpeace UK senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge.

“For this effort to succeed, it’s crucial companies go beyond just making products recyclable – they need to turn the tap off at the source.

“This means cutting the overall amount of throwaway plastic being produced, fast action to ditch problem plastics like PVC and Styrofoam along with unnecessary items like plastic stirrers and sachets, and switching to truly sustainable solutions.”

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