A Circular Future

Although perhaps a bit delayed, the growing response to the plastic problem in the UK is beginning to make the future look circular for plastic recycling. 

With government regulations from the Plastic Packaging Tax to plastic bag levies taking force, partnered with the efforts from the likes of the chemical recycling industry, foundations are coming into place for what could become a circular economy in the UK.

Even set-backs such as Greenpeace’s findings on the treatment of UK plastic waste exports have seemingly served as a trigger for an even more vigorous response from the UK. 

Person Holding Plastic Bottles and Hose

The prevailing response from these Greenpeace revelations by activists and campaigners has been to construct a solution that will help to reduce the amounts of plastic waste in the UK. 

Suggestions have so far included a ban on plastic waste exports, to implement stringent plastic reduction targets, and for the government to invest in a domestic recycling structure for the UK

Having already dealt with its plastic exports back in January, the EU is believed by many to be ahead of the UK in its efforts to achieve a circular economy. 

Meanwhile, the UK’s plastic waste exports to Turkey alone increased from 12,000 tonnes to 209,642 tonnes between 2016 and 2020. 

“We are way behind on this.” Sian Sutherland, spokesperson at A Plastic Planet, has said of the matter. “We must now step up and own our own waste.”

United in the opinion that all of the UK’s plastic waste should be managed and dealt with within the UK, activists have put forward the Environment Bill which aims to combat plastic waste and climate change, whilst protecting wildlife and the environment. 

The Environment Bill aims to make the UK take charge and be responsible for its impact upon the environment by introducing legally-binding targets for recycling and combating pollution. 

Other changes which have seen a positive impact for the plastic problem have come from conglomerates such as The Co-op, Morrisons, and Waitrose which have been working towards their own plastic recycling targets. 

For example, the Co-op has recently spearheaded a movement which has caused the public to rethink the way they treat ‘The Bag for Life’.

Woman with string bag with plastic containers

By removing the Bag for Life from their stores and replacing it with sustainable alternatives, the supermarket chain has drawn attention to environmental impacts of the bag which has seemingly become just another one-use alternative to the plastic carrier. 

This is just one of many examples as to how UK-based companies have been taking control of their impacts on plastic waste and working to minimise their contribution to the plastic problem. 

And this could be just the start for company initiatives, with the UK government proposing the ‘Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme’ for packaging, which would make it compulsory that packaging producers are responsible for their material once it becomes waste. 

This scheme, which concluded consultation on 4th June 2021, aims to “boost recycling rates” and “reduce waste” according to the UK’s department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 

Whilst the UK is making its efforts to combat the plastic problem, many believe that there is still a long way before we reach a circular economy. 

But with many initiatives and movements still in the pipeline, the UK remains on the right track for achieving a circular economy and continues to move forwards with its response to the plastic problem. 

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