Strategic Technical Manager – Plastics, WRAP
As we strive to create a more circular economy, we need to rethink the way we tackle plastic pollution.
The domino effect of China imposing restrictions in accepting plastic waste undoubtedly created immediate challenges as the world scrambled to find countries ready to open their shores. This is unsustainable and has contributed to disturbing images of the world’s detritus billowing in illegal dumping sites.
The flip side is that the situation offers up an unforeseen but unprecedented opportunity to build a thriving UK infrastructure which unlocks innovation, creates jobs and ensures we take ultimate responsibility for managing our own waste.
Action on plastic pollution
An impatient public still want to see action on the totemic environmental problem of plastic pollution, despite the understandable diversion of COVID-19. We know it is still in the in-tray of politicians and CEOs alike, we have been impressed by the ongoing commitment of our business and government partners to The UK Plastics Pact, which WRAP manages.
The Pact brings the levers of government policy, business action and citizen change to work harmoniously. Only by these working together will we recalibrate the make-use-dispose culture, which has been the driver of plastic pollution and create a circular economy for plastics in which it never becomes waste.
We’re seeing more people recycle than ever before and some businesses are building solid foundations for developing refill and reuse alternatives for customers.
The balance of plastic use
There’s no doubt that this is challenging and complex and we need to get the balance right between retaining the value that plastic packaging can have with eliminating the harm it causes. But the Pact is making progress. We have reported a significant reduction in the amount of unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging used. We’re seeing more people recycle than ever before and some businesses are building solid foundations for developing refill and reuse alternatives for customers.
A circular economy of plastics
So, what is our wish list to make the plastics economy truly circular? Game changing policies are in the pipeline to ensure everyone can recycle all types of plastic packaging at home and at work; deposit return schemes will increase recycling of drinks bottles and reduce litter; and businesses that place non-recyclable packaging on the market will be left with a heavy penalty. But the rollout is a way off and the issue is urgent. We can’t and should not wait to act. We need to go further to remove unnecessary packaging and foster innovation to make reuse and refill mainstream. More retailers need to put into place front of store collection points for all types of plastic bags and wrapping; and businesses beyond food, such as the agriculture, construction and automotive industries, need to fully embrace the potential of using recycled plastic in their products.
We’re seeing more of these industries showing interest in The UK Plastics Pact. Bringing stability to the market for recycled plastic, coupled with the consistent input of material will result in critical investment in infrastructure. And importantly we need to support the public to recycle even more. Everyone has a part to play.