When the story of a dead whale calf was featured in Blue Planet 2, the world responded. The emotional images have triggered mass public reaction to the problem of plastic pollution and resulted in an unprecedented number of retailers, restaurants and coffee houses promising to do their bit.
Broadcast in October 2017, the second series of Blue Planet highlighted the impact of the eight million tonnes of plastic that are ending up in the world’s seas and oceans each year. As images of a sperm whale grieving over its calf were shown, David Attenborough told viewers that it could have been poisoned as a result of plastic pollution.
Soon after the show was aired, Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, who has said he is ‘haunted’ by the Blue Planet images, announced that cutting plastic pollution was a key objective for the government’s 25-year plan for the environment. In launching the plan last month, Prime Minister Teresa May pledged to eliminate “avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042” and retailers have been racing to join the war against plastic ever since.
One of the first high profile announcements of 2018 came from frozen food company, Iceland, who has committed to becoming the first major retailer to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own brand products by the end of 2023. In its place, Iceland says it will harness the latest technologies to create a range of packaging that will comprise of paper and pulp trays, and paper bags which are fully recyclable through domestic waste collection or in-store recycling facilities.
Other supermarkets announcing a commitment to reducing their packaging waste in 2018 include Asda, who has pledged to reduce the amount of plastic in its own branded packaging by 10 per cent this year, and Waitrose, who has announced it will make all of its own-label packing, which includes plastic food trays, widely recyclable, reusable or home compostable by 2025.
A number of restaurants and fast food outlets have also made a commitment to the environment, including McDonald’s who has announced that 100 per cent of its guest packaging will come from recycled, renewable or certified sources by 2025, while Dunkin Donuts has said it will eliminate all polystyrene foam cups in its global supply chain this spring.
The Marine Conservation Society estimates that the UK uses 8.5 billion straws every year. They are said to be among the top 10 items found in beach clean-ups, taking over 200 years to break down.
A number of retailers and restaurants including JD Wetherspoon, Waitrose, Wagamama and Pizza Express have announced that plastic straws would be phased out or only made available on request. Costa Coffee announced that it will remove plastic drinking straws this year and will replace them with a more environmentally friendly alternative.
London City Airport has become the first airport in the UK to place an outright ban on plastic straws across food and drink outlets on its premises, replacing with biodegradable straws which will be available on request, and the Queen has also sought to reduce plastic straw usage at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Michael Gove has now suggested that plastic straws could be prohibited in Britain.
This week Starbucks has announced that it will be the first UK coffee chain to trial a 5p charge on takeaway coffee cups. In the three-month trial, consumers buying hot drinks in takeaway cups in 35 selected London branches of Starbucks will have to pay an extra 5p. Baristas will also offer customers drinking in-store a ceramic cup, cutting paper use further. The coffee chain has said it hopes the move will help change behaviour and encourage customers to switch to reusable cups instead.
With concern over plastic waste higher than ever before, members of the public have also been taking matters into their own hands, preventing discarded packaging from harming the environment. A Swedish fitness craze that combines jogging and litter-picking has been gaining popularity across the globe, with so-called Plogging clubs starting in Scotland, France and Thailand.
Clarity Environmental Managing Director, David Adams, said the plogging craze is a positive one that has many benefits: “Taking part in outdoor activities helps to increase our awareness of the environment, and plogging is the perfect combination as you are doing something good for the environment whilst keeping fit.
“Plastic packaging waste is an issue that needs widescale involvement; from government to consumers, and manufacturers to retailers. In recent months we have seen many retailers and manufacturers responding to the public outcry on packaging waste. The attention that plogging is receiving continues to raise awareness of the impact that packaging waste can have on our environment, making sure we also do our bit as consumers, and keeping the pressure on decision makers, retailers and manufacturers, encouraging them to take positive action.”
With the plogging craze taking off in the UK, we were asked to provide comments to The Times, Recycling and Waste World and were also interviewed live on the BBC Radio Sussex breakfast show. You can keep up with Clarity in the press on our website.
Companies that handle packaging in the UK are subject to the Packaging Regulations. We work with these businesses, helping them to reduce their impact on the environment and ensuring they comply with current regulations. Contact our team on 0845 129 7177 to find out how we can help your business.