The calls from the UK parliament's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee include the investigation of refillable and reusable packaging
A shift away from single-use packaging is necessary, according to the UK parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.
The group of MPs has urged the government to focus on reducing all single-use packaging, not just plastic, as part of its latest report looking at plastic in the food and drink industry.
It follows on from the policies outlined by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs‘ (Defra) consultations on the improvement of managing waste in the UK, including extended producer responsibility (EPR) and a deposit return scheme (DRS).
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee chair Neil Parish MP, says he’s concerned about the management of end-of-life compostable plastics without the right infrastructure in the UK.
He said: “We all know that plastic pollution of our rivers and seas is a huge problem.
“However, replacing plastic with other materials isn’t always the best solution, as all materials have an environmental impact.
“My Committee is also concerned that compostable plastics have been introduced without the right infrastructure or consumer understanding about how to dispose of them.
“Fundamentally, substitution is not the answer, and we need to look at ways to cut down on single-use packaging.
“Currently, packaging labelling can be confusing, unclear, or even misleading.
“Ensuring that all local authorities collect the same plastics for recycling will make it easier for packaging to be labelled, so consumers know whether that packaging is recyclable or not.”
Reusable and refillable packaging systems should be reviewed to aid shift from single-use products, say MPs
As part of its investigation, the committee recommended a review of reusable and refillable packaging systems to determine where legislative intervention might be appropriate.
The group criticised the proposed tax on packaging with less than 30% recycled plastic as too blunt an instrument.
They say this figure is too low in some areas, considering the likes of polyethylene terephthalate bottles that already have higher a percentage, compared with areas such as food contact packaging where regulatory limitations make it too high.
Instead, the report called for a modulated tax, giving lower fees for higher levels of recycled content. This avoiding the threshold acting as a cap, beyond which there is no incentive for increasing the use of recycled plastic.
The group also raised concerns over tax exemptions for imported, filled packaging, which they believe would encourage the off-shoring of production. This could be to the detriment of UK manufacturing and defeat the purpose of the tax.
They say the policy should be applied to every plastic item entering the UK market, regardless of its place of origin.
The committee also voiced its full support of the proposals to improve the recycling rates in the country by bringing in EPR and DRS, as well as the improvement of consistency for country-wide recycling collections.
The government must review reusable and refillable packaging models, says environmental charity
Reusable packaging as an idea has been tested by major companies, including supermarket chain Waitrose.
Greenpeace UK‘s head of ocean plastics campaign Louise Edge believes the government must review this model and give clear plastic reduction targets in the upcoming Environment Bill.
She said: “Plastic is harmful to wildlife and remains in our oceans for hundreds of years.
“But when companies switch from plastic to paper packaging, this amounts to chopping down trees to save the oceans, and all too often so-called compostable alternatives don’t actually break down as they should. These are false solutions.
“Shifting away from all single-use packaging is definitely the right move.
“The government must act on the recommendation to review reusable and refillable packaging models, and must set clear plastic reduction targets in the upcoming Environment Bill.”