The UK Government has been urged to establish a “Plastic Packaging Taskforce” within the Environment Agency (EA) as part of recommendations calling for a bold national policy framework to reduce ocean plastic overseas and boost domestic infrastructure investment.
The Environment Agency Plastic Packaging Taskforce should work with industry to publish an “approved list” of packaging materials and formats and develop protocols for updating this as technology advances, according to Policy Connect’s new report – Plastics Packaging Plan: Achieving Net Zero ‘Waste’ Exports.
The report says the UK must urgently take back control of its share of the global plastics problem and calls for new UK policies so UK plastic becomes a “circular industrial resource, rather than exportable waste or environmental pollution”.
According to Policy Connect, the report comes as public concerns are at a high, with ongoing discussion around the UK’s separation from European Union regulations, and China shutting its doors to waste imports.
Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee – “Achieving this will require home-grown solutions such as implementing a Deposit Return Scheme by 2022 and applying a coffee cup levy as my Committee recommended. We can and must transition from exporting our plastic waste problem to growing our own solutions.”
It says, by some estimates, the UK uses 3.3m tonnes of plastic packaging annually. At 50kg for each person in the country this is far above the European Union average of 31kg. Under half of plastic packaging placed on the market in 2016 was collected for recycling, it also says, meaning the rest ended up in landfill, incineration, or was littered in the environment.
The report calls for a target of zero exports of plastic packaging by 2030 and sets out a number of recommendations with this in mind.
It says to achieve this target will require significant investment in domestic recycling. The range of government consultations due in 2019 will be crucial for ensuring the Government’s recently published resources and waste strategy leads to “effective and well informed regulatory and policy changes”, it says.
Mary Creagh MP, Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee said: “Exporting two thirds of the UK’s plastic waste overseas is bad for jobs, business and our environment. I welcome the call for the UK to commit to a bold target of zero exports of plastic packaging by 2030.
“Achieving this will require home-grown solutions such as implementing a Deposit Return Scheme by 2022 and applying a coffee cup levy as my Committee recommended. We can and must transition from exporting our plastic waste problem to growing our own solutions.”
Recommendations centre around reducing plastic waste; setting ambitious targets that provide future certainty to industry; aligning packaging design and reprocessing infrastructure; ensuring clean, high value plastic recycling streams and closing the loop outside the home.
The report follows a call by MPs to ban plastic from being exported for the “world’s poorest people to deal with”. In response The Recycling Association has warned that banning exports will only mean more plastic sent to landfill in the UK, while depriving developing countries of a “useful resource”.