Current action on plastic packaging ineffective, say grocery sector insiders

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
Currently, supermarkets put the equivalent of 900 pieces of single-use plastic on the shelf for every person living the UK each year

Swapping out plastic packaging for alternatives is confusing consumers and even having detrimental environmental effects, a new report on the grocery sector shows.

The Plastic promises: What the grocery sector is really doing about packaging report, published today by Green Alliance for the Circular Economy Task Force, reveals that consumers struggle to understand terms like ‘bio-based’, ‘compostable’, and ‘biodegradable’ when it comes to plastic.

The industry insiders interviewed for the report feared consumers might put compostable plastic in with conventional plastic or litter material, wrongly assuming it will biodegrade in the open air.

They expressed a desire for a clearer approach to where such plastic alternatives should be used and how they should be marked.

Interviewees also noted that by switching from plastic to other materials such as paper bags or wooden cutlery, businesses might inadvertently be increasing their carbon footprints.

Additionally, they noted that packaging technology innovations have become a competitive advantage among companies – resulting in a lack of unified action on plastic across the sector, which could end up worsening environmental problems.

Those interviewed for the report suggested that to unify efforts, the government needed to have a bigger role in directing the future of plastic packaging.

Currently, supermarkets put the equivalent of 900 pieces of single-use plastic on the shelf for every person living in the UK each year.

Commenting on the findings, Libby Peake, senior policy adviser on resources at Green Alliance, said: “The public are right to be outraged about plastic pollution.

“But what we don’t want is, a few years down the line, for them to be outraged about new environmental problems caused by the alternatives.

“We need to address the root of the problem, our throwaway society.

“Companies need much more help from the government to tackle plastic pollution without making climate change and other environmental impacts worse in the process.”

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