The UK’s second largest waste authority and London’s largest, North London Waste Authority (NLWA), has called on the UK government to “urgently” ban more single-use plastics and introduce a 50p charge on coffee cups “without delay”.
NLWA’s call follows the release of The Big Plastic Count – a survey by Greenpeace and NGO Everyday Plastic, which claims UK households dispose of 100billion pieces of plastic packaging every year, with just 12% recycled.
NLWA says the issue is that an array of plastics, in particular soft plastics and items made of composite materials such as takeaway coffee cups, are not recyclable.
The best way to tackle unecological waste is not once it ends up in the bin but at the very beginning – manufacturers should not produce it at all and focus instead on sustainable alternatives
It says that while recyclable plastics such as milk bottles are easy to turn into new products – and if put in recycling bins across north London are 100% processed in the UK – many other fossil-fuel based plastics including flexible plastic covering fruit and vegetables, crisp packets, and bubble wrap are not recyclable.
If these plastics were to be recycled, the result would be an extremely poor-quality material with little value, it says.
It says that while supermarkets offer ‘recycling’ for these materials, there is currently minimal UK infrastructure to deal with the vast volumes of these tricky-to-recycle plastics generated each year.
NLWA calls on the UK government to legislate on the root cause: what it calls “the reckless overproduction of tricky-to-recycle plastics”.
Following from bans on plastic straws, stirrers, and plastic-stemmed cotton buds, NLWA wants the government to extend the ban to “unnecessary flexible plastic” over fruit and vegetables, takeaway polystyrene containers, plastic cutlery and plates for starters.
A 50p charge on takeaway coffee cups – which are not recyclable due to their plastic lining to prevent leakages – would help encourage more people to switch to reusable cups and reduce the 2.5 billion coffee cup mountain chucked away each year, it says.
NLWA chair, Cllr Clyde Loakes, said: “No one needs fossil-fuel based plastic smothering broccoli or plastic nets for oranges. It’s vital that the UK cuts down on unnecessary waste that can’t be recycled or reused.
“And the best way to tackle unecological waste is not once it ends up in the bin but at the very beginning – manufacturers should not produce it at all and focus instead on sustainable alternatives.”
NLWA also reiterated its call to the UK Government to implement Extended Producer Responsibility in 2023 as well as end delays to the Deposit Return Scheme.