Is the “war on plastic” actually having any effect?

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A new report from the World Wildlife Fund, in conjunction with Eunomia Research and Consulting, reveals that the production of plastic waste in the UK is set to rise by a fifth.

The report about the future of plastic consumption and the management of waste came out on 24th March to mark Earth Hour. This is a global movement in which lights are switched off and events are organised to draw attention to climate change. The study draws on both future projections and historical trends to predict the rise in plastic waste from just over 5 million tonnes this year to more than 6 million tonnes in 2030, an increase of 20%.

Most of the plastic waste in this country results from packaging. This accounts for 67% of the UK’s plastic waste, with a further 7.3% coming from waste electronic and electrical equipment. The automotive industry is also responsible for 4.2% of plastic waste. The amount of packaging waste produced in the UK is believed to be higher than that of other countries in the EU, because Britain tends to favour convenience foods, both in the form of pre-packaged food from supermarkets and in takeaway meals. Official statistics may be lower than they should be, due to under-reporting of waste.

At present, only 26% of plastic waste in the UK goes for waste recycling and of this, 85% is plastic packaging. 18% of the UK’s plastic waste goes to energy recovery and the majority, 55%, is sent to landfill. By 2030, the rate of plastic waste recycling is predicted to rise to 42%, mainly due to changes in legislation in which a 55% recycling target for plastic packaging will be introduced for 2025. The EU legislation also plays a part by imposing a landfill limit of 10% by 2030. For single use items, however, the recycling rate is expected to rise only to 37 percent.

The UK is the fifth highest single-use plastics consumer in the EU. For takeaway food containers, drinks cups, straws and crisp packets, Britain is the second-biggest consumer. World Wildlife Fund CEO, Tanya Steele, says it is necessary to act on climate change and pollution in order to save the planet. Single-use plastic should be banned by 2025 and incentives should be introduced to encourage businesses and individuals to reduce, reuse and recycle.

The organisation is calling on the government to implement a deposit-return scheme for plastic drinks bottles, similar to that implemented by certain other countries and to introduce a charge or “latte levy” on disposable coffee cups.

The report predicts that in the UK, we will use 33% more plastic cups with lids by 2030, plastic straw use will increase by 41%, crisp packets will be used 34% more and 9% more drinks bottles will be used. As such a low percentage goes for plastic waste recycling and landfill disposal is limited, the burning of plastic waste is expected to increase to 39 percent by the year 2030.

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