A shift to compostable packaging is being ‘undermined’ by the government’s proposed plastic tax, which treats compostable plastic as conventional plastic, according to a compostable packaging company.
COVID-19 has raised concern among UK consumers about the amount of plastic waste disposed of during lockdown.
A new ‘Populus’ poll released today (Wednesday 8 July) finds that 85% of respondents believe more compostable packaging should be used to wrap food as an alternative to plastic.
67% of respondents were concerned about increased plastic waste during lockdown. Asked to choose whether consumers, government or the food industry should take most responsibility for reducing the use of plastic in packaging, 69% of respondents thought the food industry should take a lead, with more than half (58%) answering that they are prepared to pay more for food wrapped in compostable materials.
Ministers should urgently recognise the role of compostable packaging in reducing non-recyclable plastic waste
The poll of 2,104 UK adults was commissioned by compostable flexible packaging company TIPA with an aim of ‘shedding new light on how the UK’s relationship with plastic was impacted during the UK COVID-19 lockdown’.
The firm’s compostable materials have been implemented by Waitrose, Ocado, and more, as part of their efforts to reduce conventional plastic in stores.
Its compostable packaging can be disposed of through food waste schemes, the company says, which are due to be rolled out nationwide by 2023.
It says compostables have a ‘key role’ in addressing microplastic contamination in compost and soil.
In March 2020, a separate poll by ‘Survation’ revealed that 98% of MPs believe compostable packaging alternatives can be part of the solution to the plastic crisis.
The UK government plans to treat compostables in the same way as conventional single-use plastic under its new plastic packaging tax, TIPA says.
Daphna Nissenbaum, CEO and co-founder of TIPA: “The vast majority of UK consumers are concerned about increased plastic waste, and they are looking to the food industry and the government to empower them to buy sustainable alternatives, even if it costs more.
“While conventional plastics continue to endanger our oceans, wildlife, natural areas, and our health; compostable packaging can fully degrade and return to the earth safely.
“Despite crucial differences in the materials, compostables continue to be treated the same way as conventional plastic by UK legislation.
Despite crucial differences in the materials, compostables continue to be treated the same way as conventional plastic by UK legislation.
“A plastics tax which makes no distinction between the two will have a perverse effect, actively undermining efforts to shift toward compostable materials.
“The tax and the coming Environment Bill are both prime opportunities to support innovative, environmentally-friendly materials, but at the moment the UK government is missing the boat.
“Now is the time for decision-makers to show leadership, and encourage compostable packaging for the sake of the natural environment.”
David Newman, Managing Director of the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association, added: “The government wants councils across the country to collect food waste from 2023, but the success of these schemes depends on keeping conventional plastics out of food bins, and out of the soil.
“The best way to do this is to ensure that compostable materials are used in food packaging, and in food waste bin liners, so that food and packaging can break down safely together.
“We know the UK is heavily polluting its food systems with (micro) plastics, and compostables can help stop this. We have a huge composting industry in the UK capable of treating these materials and already doing so in many places.
“Ministers should urgently recognise the role of compostable packaging in reducing non-recyclable plastic waste, by encouraging collection of compostable packaging with food so that materials like film can be safely and effectively composted.”