A new report from a UK think tank has called for “bold national” action from businesses and the government to combat the problem of plastic waste.
The “Plastics Packaging Plan – Achieving Net Zero ‘Waste’ Exports” report, published by Policy Connect and backed by MPs from multiple parties, states the UK needs a holistic, coherent plan to take responsibility for its contributions to global plastic pollution. It recommends authorities move toward a more circular, sustainable approach to plastic waste management in the dual interests of addressing the plastics problem and promoting British innovation and green jobs.
The UK uses 3.3 million tonnes of plastic per year, much of which is exported to other countries for disposal, where it ends up either in landfills or in the ocean. According to the Plastics Packaging Plan report, ending this practice by imposing a “zero export” policy could reduce annual CO2 emissions by the same amount as taking 45,000 cars off the road.
The report contains 18 recommendations for government bodies and businesses, including:
- Increasing the UK’s recycling infrastructure and raising staffing levels accordingly;
- Streamlining the recycling process for citizens;
- Adopting stricter policies and clear targets to reduce the use of plastics, with a target of zero plastic waste exported by 2030; and
- Updating the design of plastic packaging to make it less wasteful and boost the use of recycled and recyclable materials.
Jonathan Shaw, chief executive of Policy Connect, said: “Britain’s used plastic export habit is costing our economy and the planet. We can no longer sweep our plastic rubbish problem under other countries’ carpets. British consumers want to recycle more but our lack of UK reprocessing plants and circular policies are letting them down. We need a bold national plastics plan that we can all be proud of to protect the marine environment, to kick-start infrastructure investment and jobs, and to boost UK demand for recycled plastics.”