89% of people call on UK government to support compostables as “solution to plastic crisis”

plastic packaging

New data shows that the majority of UK adults support substituting conventional plastic with compostable alternatives and want local authorities and government to do more to incentivise the collection of compostable packaging.

A survey of 1734 UK adults conducted by YouGov found 89% of respondents support local councils being required to collect all recyclable or compostable packaging from households.

The survey also showed that over 60% of people across the UK expressed concern about the amount of plastic waste created in their households from daily life. 86% of people also supported enabling the collection of compostable packaging alongside food waste.

The survey was commissioned by TIPA, a developer and manufacturer of compostable packaging solutions.

In addition to improving collection services, the survey also canvassed views on a range of other policy interventions to support tackling plastic waste.

Plastics are clogging up our seas and rivers with terrifying consequences for our marine life and the wider environment.

85% of people supported banning conventional plastic packaging where alternative compostable solutions were available, with 70% of people viewing a product more positively when packaged in compostable packaging.

When asked whether they felt Government, brands and retailers were making as much effort as possible (with 0 being the least and 10 being the most) to reduce plastic waste, the survey showed that over half of the public think the Government, brands and retailers are not doing enough to tackle plastic waste.

Brands and retailers were deemed to be doing slightly more than the Government to reduce plastic waste with 44% rating the Government’s achievements as 5 or above, compared to 49% for brands and retailers.

Commenting on the survey, Co-founder and CEO of TIPA, Daphna Nissenbaum, said: “Plastics are clogging up our seas and rivers with terrifying consequences for our marine life and the wider environment. They are now so pervasive that microplastics have even been detected in human blood.

“It is encouraging to see such public support for compostables, but without government investment and the appropriate policy frameworks, the required collection infrastructure is unlikely to be in place to respond to overwhelming consumer appetite to mainstream compostable packaging.

Nissenbaum says that the findings of the survey confirm that DEFRA would command “broad public support” if it introduced a new effective policy mandating the collection of compostable packaging alongside food waste across England to ensure that materials are composted at end of life.

“If the Government is committed to achieving its plastic reduction targets by 2025 it should consider supporting the development and growth of the compostables industry – or risk handing the advantage to polluting conventional plastic.”

Contaminants in waste streams

The Chartered Institution of Waste Management (CIWM) said that while it understands the use of compostable plastics is something that “resonates” with many members of the public, their use “does not necessarily provide a viable solution to reducing the amount of plastic waste that wrongly ends up in the natural environment”.

A CIWM spokesperson said: “Compostable plastics should not be viewed as an enabler for single-use products in applications where their sole reason for being is to replace conventional plastics. No plastics, compostable or otherwise should be discarded in the open environment, and as such compostable plastics are not a solution to inappropriate waste management or littering.

No plastics, compostable or otherwise should be discarded in the open environment

“Compostable plastics are typically thought of as contaminants in waste streams destined for mechanically recycling, and separate collections for compostable plastic are not generally in place in the UK.

“There are many different types of compostable plastics, not all of which are suitable for industrial composting, anaerobic digestion, or home composting. If littered, or otherwise released into the environment in an uncontrolled way, these compostable materials may not degrade quickly or even at all.

“However, CIWM believes compostable plastics do have a role, but it is in specific applications where there is a clear environmental benefit in using them, predominantly to facilitate the collection of organic and food wastes for treatment in suitable industrial composting, anaerobic digestion, or home composting facilities.

“Examples would include food caddy liners, tea bags, and closed loop situations such as festivals. In such applications it is essential that any compostable claim has been independently verified to relevant standard and certification, and that the products are clearly labelled as to how they should be disposed of.”

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