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Shopping battles plastic litter

23rd January 2020

Supermarkets are at the centre of the battle against plastics.

A rise in the purchase of bags for life has followed the dramatic drop in the use of free plastic shopping bags by consumers with the introduction of a 5p charge. Bags for life are twice that price but the rise in purchases is dramatic, almost double over a year, which reflects ineffectively on consumer behaviour changes.

In 2018, supermarkets put some 903,000 tonnes of plastic packaging onto the UK market, as seven out of ten supermarkets increased their plastic footprint over 2017.

Now Sainsbury’s has launched a trial scheme to allow customers to return plastic bottles
and drink cans in return for money-off shopping at three stores, having replaced plastic bags with paper and re-usable bags for fruit and vegetables.

And rival supermarket chain, Tesco, is also replacing plastic bags with paper ones as part of its campaign to remove one billion pieces of plastic packaging from its own brand products by the end of 2020. This will include plastic trays, straws, plastic bags for clothing and for cards. Tesco suppliers have been told that packaging helps determine which products will be available in-store.

Drinks containers are the next target for the Department for environment, food and rural affairs, Defra, to stop litter waste at source as disposable containers feature among the most commonly found items on UK beaches. There are moves underway to introduce Deposit Return Schemes (DRS) where containers return a deposit price paid on purchase.

The Scottish government will introduce a countrywide DRS next year with schools acting as one of the locations for container returns. All retail outlets have to participate and charge 20p per drink to be repaid when customers return the containers.

In one year, UK consumers go through 14 billion drinks bottle, nine billion drink cans and five billion glass bottles, according to a Defra working group report. As just one plastic bottle takes 450 years to biodegrade, just one recycled properly helps reduce the negative impact on the environment.

There are communal efforts to reduce plastic waste with a number of Devon towns, the latest being Newton Abbott, aiming to go plastics free by encouraging locals to reduce, reuse and recycle by asking for plastic promises for people to adopt.

Taking the plastics out of litter is vital to the reduction of environmental damages. Plastics
in food and drinks packaging puts the importance of recycling at the heart of any plastics revolution.