Plastic pollution of the marine environment, of which food and drink packaging is a significant contributor, has captured public interest over the past two years, and the Government has set out its ambitions to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042. In the backlash against plastic, other materials are being increasingly used as substitutes in food and drink packaging. We are concerned that such actions are being taken without proper consideration of wider environmental consequences, such as higher carbon emissions. Compostable plastics have been introduced without the right infrastructure or consumer understanding to manage compostable waste.
The Government is not placing enough emphasis on reducing plastic food and drink packaging in the first place. Reduction is far more important than recycling and a fundamental shift away from all single use packaging, plastic or otherwise, is now necessary. Parliament should lead by example, with the ambition to remove single use packaging from all its catering facilities. We have also called on the Government to conduct a review of reusable and refillable packaging systems to determine what works and where Government intervention might be appropriate.
In 2018, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published its waste strategy “Our waste, our resources: a strategy for England”, followed in early 2019 by consultations on a plastic packaging tax, Deposit Return Scheme (DRS), consistency in recycling collections and reforms to the packaging producer responsibility system. These consultations all focused on improving domestic recycling rates and capacity and our key conclusions are: