Cut all single-use packaging, not just plastic, say MPs

12 September 2019, 01:31 | Updated: 12 September 2019, 07:04

The UK needs to move away from all single-use packaging - not just plastic - to have a long-term positive impact on the environment, MPs say.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said more also needed to be done on recycling systems and labelling, as well as looking at the effectiveness of reuse and refill schemes.

And the committee's report called for the proposed plastic packaging tax - which will tax packaging with less than 30% recycled content - to have lower fees for higher levels of recycled material.

It warned that the increasing use of alternatives to plastic, such as aluminium, glass, paper or compostable plastics, also had environmental impacts, potentially pushing up energy use and carbon emissions.

Committee chairman Neil Parish said: "We all know that plastic pollution of our rivers and seas is a huge problem.

"However, replacing plastic with other materials isn't always the best solution, as all materials have an environmental impact.

"My committee is also concerned that compostable plastics have been introduced without the right infrastructure or consumer understanding about how to dispose of them.

"Fundamentally, substitution is not the answer, and we need to look at ways to cut down on single-use packaging."

He added: "Currently, packaging labelling can be confusing, unclear, or even misleading.

"Ensuring that all local authorities collect the same plastics for recycling will make it easier for packaging to be labelled, so consumers know whether that packaging is recyclable or not."

The committee suggested that reuse and refill schemes may be an effective way to reduce packaging.

Waitrose is in the process of rolling out its "unpacked" trial to several stores. It involves refillable options for products ranging from wine and beer to cereals, pasta and cleaning products.

Another is Loop, run by TerraCycle and set to be piloted in collaboration with Tesco, which will deliver products ordered online to homes in reusable containers that will then be collected, cleaned and refilled.

And football clubs are being urged to adopt returnable cups at their stadiums to cut plastic waste.

Friends of the Earth estimates more than six million single-use plastic beer cups may have used in the Premier League last season alone.

Some teams are already making the move. Last month Manchester City introduced a stadium-wide returnable cup scheme last month which it estimates will help remove an average of 29,000 single-use plastic cups per match.

Arsenal also introduced a reusable cup scheme with the local Camden Town Brewery at the beginning of this season following a successful trial period last year.

Sky's Ocean Rescue campaign encourages people to reduce their single-use plastics. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved at www.skyoceanrescue.com