Compacted plastic waste

Checking out plastic policy

Checking Out on Plastics III revealed that during 2019, the 10 major supermarkets in the UK put 896,853 tonnes of plastic packaging on the market. This was a reduction of 1.6 per cent over the previous year, but a 1.2 per cent increase compared to 2017.

A key finding of the report was that the current pace of change is insufficient to meet the scale of the plastic pollution crisis.

It is clear that retailers have targets in place and are in the early stages of delivering plastic-reduction strategies across packaging, bags, single-use items and within the supply chain. However, we are also keen to understand retailer positions as to how Government policies can help drive progress and level the playing field for the sector.

On 1 October 2020, new legislation came into force in the UK to ban plastic stirrers, straws and cotton buds, following earlier bans on intentionally added microbeads and a Conservative manifesto commitment to stop the export of plastic waste to non-OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. UK Government and supermarket efforts plans to reduce plastic are a necessary step in the fight against plastic pollution but currently insufficient.

Upcoming measures, like those outlined in our assessment, can enable the retail sector to move forward in eradicating harmful products without being competitively disadvantaged.

In addition to assessing plastic footprints and reduction initiatives, the EIA/Greenpeace UK survey asked supermarkets about their position with regard to binding Government targets on plastic reduction and reuse, as well as a UK-wide all-inclusive deposit return scheme (DRS) and the application of extended producer responsibility (EPR), which are currently in the process of being designed and implemented at various stages across the UK.

We wanted to assess the level of support and ambition retailers have for these Government mandated measures to aid efforts on plastic reduction and have outlined our findings and recommendations in this briefing.