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Zero Waste Week – The David Attenborough effect.

There have been two consultations recently relating to plastics and packaging. The first was the usual humdrum we need to tweak the recycling targets for the amount of waste packaging that businesses must subsidise. It received 45 responses. It was fairly typical of the annual updates to packaging targets that we see nearly every year.

The second was posted after Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet was televised and sought opinions about the definition of single use plastics and the use of taxes to influence single use plastics. It received over 200 responses from trade associations, compliance schemes and businesses with an interest in the outcome. There were also 162,000 individual responses which may be a record for a consultation like this. The consultation one year earlier seeking views on the banning of microbeads only received 430 responses, but since the screening of the Blue Planet, public awareness has triggered a response that is several hundred times greater!

The response document from the Government says that they will:

  • Look at how taxes could encourage more recycled content. (The French Government have recently announced plans that will penalise virgin material / incentivise recycled content.
  • Look at how taxes can encourage more sustainable design of packaging and incentivise the use of packaging that can be recycled.
  • Consider taxes that will directly influence commonly littered items, such as coffee cups and take away containers, as well as measures to encourage them to be recycled.
  • ban or restrict the use of some items where plastic free alternatives are readily available and consultations are already planned for plastic stemmed cotton buds, plastic coffee stirrers and plastic straws.

This is also set against the background of the UN Environment ‘Single Use Plastics Roadmap’, EU Circular Economy and the WRAP lead Plastics Pact – in which The UK’s largest businesses have pledged to make significant improvements to their current performance

As long as the public pressure is translated into action at all levels, we should start to see progress every soon.

For our part, here in Hebden Bridge, we have just done our weekly fruit and veg shop from ‘Andy, the market trader’ with almost no packaging involved, just a couple of paper bags and our Pennine-Pack reusable cotton carrier bag made from recycled waste textiles.

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