Tory Plastic Pollution Plan Falls Short

by CrowdLeaf

Last week the UK announced a plan to tackle plastic pollution, sadly it underwhelmed. Which makes it a wasted opportunity with wording on plastic from Theresa May that lifted many hopes, ‘plastic doesn’t discriminate it affects everyone, everywhere’. Yet the actions were largely absent past the warm words.

Merely looking at a 25p latte levy rather than actually having one? Or an extension of the 5p levy on single use plastic bags rather than action to stop them being produced altogether or phased out in their entirety at least in their current non compostable form.

Why when we hear of this plastic crisis we collectively face, do we not demand more money? This is an issues in and of itself rather than accept a switching of funds from foreign aid, that’s not to say it cannot be used to aid the  problem which sees no borders and is not just a problem in the UK.

Though there were positive steps announced in the plan. There is the push for more wilding and meadows and plans to plant 50 million trees.  This is potentially ambitious and effective, if done with environmental scientists to aid with diversity to support flourishing ecosystems.

What CrowdLeaf suggest beyond the plan:

A ban on single use carrier bags by the end of the next financial year, with the 5p levy extended to all firms by the next working day. 

Plastics where possible should be phased out of products such as clothing and it should become mandatory to have aisles without plastic covers for food where it is not needed, not merely encouraged.

Alternatives to plastics such as potato starch should be implemented within 6 months for small businesses and 4 months for large business (below and above 250 employees respectively).  It should also be mandated that within 4 months magazines that need a cover should use a plastic substitute.

Supermarkets could also have a target set for product replacement that involves a social/environmental supply chain and this should be incentivised with a continuously tighter management on standards set by the market regulator. Something we take seriously with our shop ( https://shop.crowdleaf.org.uk/) and will happily consult others to do.

A bottle recycling scheme whereby there is a financial return for physically returning used plastic bottles. Proven to be successful in the past and elsewhere in the world.

The suggestions can keep coming but there is neither the time nor the words to do a comprehensive list now. So let’s look at two products in detail. After all the problem is more than carrier bags.

Straws for example, the staple piece of many a drink, litter beaches, the sea and kill marine life. Recent reports show that plastic straws are one of the top 10 items of plastic pollution that get washed up on beaches annually and which is causing massive damage to marine life and the onshore and offshore ecosystems. Our solution would be simple, stop this from happening by stopping production of them, giving a deadline of a month to allow for stocks to be used before switching to alternative reusable straws or biodegradable paper straws which are already on the market.

CrowdLeaf would also have followed Scotland, what with them being the first country to ban the plastic cotton bud and done the same across all of the UK. This is another pollutant that could easily be partially resolved by using biodegradable cotton buds – it won’t clean seas but it would be a positive step forward if we could stop adding more plastic to the mass.

Cleaning up the mess is the costly and harder to achieve aspect and I appreciate the government’s hands are partially tide by the scale and nature of marine plastic. After all, plastic is in our water columns and like the marine life so badly affected by it, goes across borders. That’s not to say nothing should be done however and a push for sea bins (essentially a weir skimmer) can be made compulsory for ports and harbours, as well as tough penalties for plastic polluters, both at source of plastic production and for not recycling.

The push towards reducing the need for plastic must come first, reusing plastic must come second and if the product no longer functions it can be recycled. The long term push could also come from removal of plastics from the system altogether, an issue that there seems to be little progress towards. There was an article recently about the humble wax worm and how they can digest plastic and break it down, an animal we can learn from. If there is definitely no damage done to the wax worm plastic could be used as feed or avenues like this will hopefully reduce the amount of plastic in circulation.

The road to a plastic free or circular plastic world (more likely) is going to be hard and rocky and not without sacrifice, but it is a road we have to travel and a road we have to craft ourselves. If we could make some changes to the plan they would add urgency, make a greater emphasis on alternative products and look at time frames to phase out, not simply add a disincentive to single use or disposable plastics.

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Written by CrowdLeaf’s http://crowdleaf.org.uk/ Founder Ryan Carter @rwscarter with input from Vicky Wallis, a CrowdLeaf volunteer.

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