JAN 19, 2018 01:51 PM PST

MPs Call for End to Grocery Plastic Packaging by 2023, Draw Attention to World Plastic Crisis

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

Following up on a January 2018 report from The Guardian that major UK supermarkets produce about 1.8 billion pounds (about 800,000 tonnes) of plastic waste each year, hundreds of members of parliament (MPs) have called for the stores to phase out all plastic packaging by 2023. The stores Aldi, Lidl, Morrisons, Asda, Budgens, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer were addressed in the joint letter from 200 MPs across seven political groups. There are currently 650 total MPs.

Plastic trash, credit: National Geographic

Waitrose recently committed to getting rid of all black plastic on its products by 2019. Black plastic is not currently recyclable in the UK. Iceland had committed to stop using plastic to wrap its own products by 2023.

“We have a moral duty to tackle this disposable culture. As such, I welcome the recent announcement from Iceland supermarkets … and I’m delighted that MPs from all parties are supporting my call for other retailers to follow suit,” says Labour MP Catherine West of Hornsey and Wood Green, who was a driving force behind the recent environmental call-to-action.

When Eunomia environmental consultants carried out the supermarket-plastics analysis that The Guardian covered in early 2018, only two stores – Aldi and the Co-op – had public plastic figures they would share. The group used these stats and the market share of the other companies to come up with an estimate of how much the leading stores produced together each year. The estimated 1.8 billion pounds is more than half of the amount of household plastic waste created in the UK annually: 1.5 million tonnes or 3.3 billion pounds.

Prime Minister Theresa May called for the establishment of plastic free-aisles in early 2018 and expressed a commitment to reduce plastic waste by 2042.

 “We know that the government can act on Britain’s plastics crisis a lot sooner than before 2042,” responded Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman.

According to National Geographic, between about 1950 and 2015, 6.3 billion tonnes (about 13.9 trillion pounds) of the 8.3 billion tonnes (about 18.3 trillion pounds) of plastic that was produced became plastic waste. About 12 percent of it has been incinerated and 79 percent is in landfills or nature; so, 91 percent has not been recycled. Plastic can take hundreds of years to break down.

The global estimate for yearly plastic production is at 661.5 trillion pounds or 300 million tonnes, and is expected to continue to rise significantly during the next decade. China announced in late 2017 it would stop accepting other countries’ plastic trash as of Jan. 1, leaving many nations scrambling to process their own excess waste.

“We weren’t aware of the implications for plastic ending up in our environment until it was already there. Now we have a situation where we have to come from behind to catch up,” Environmental Engineer Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia says. She studies the plastic waste in Earth’s oceans. Approximately 8 million tonnes (about 17.6 billion pounds) of plastic end up in the oceans each year.

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech and conservation.
You May Also Like
AUG 06, 2018
Neuroscience
AUG 06, 2018
Can Magnetic Stimulation Help Patients With Autism?
The latest numbers for the prevalence of autism in the United States show an increase in cases. In April the CDC released data that indicated 1 in 59...
AUG 19, 2018
Technology
AUG 19, 2018
4D Printing Ceramic Systems
Ceramics have a high melting point which makes it difficult to be produced by conventional lasers. Additionally, ceramic production by existing 3D-printing...
AUG 22, 2018
Neuroscience
AUG 22, 2018
Testing For Cognitive Decline Made Easier
In any form of disease, the sooner a diagnosis is found, the sooner treatment can begin. Finding a health problem early is the best way to increase the cha...
SEP 25, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
SEP 25, 2018
Creating Circuits to Detect and React to Conditions in Live Cells
Researchers at Caltech have taken an interesting approach to synthetic biology....
SEP 30, 2018
Technology
SEP 30, 2018
Bridging Psychology and Gamification
To significantly impact learning efforts in user experience design, healthcare, and government, a research team is seeking to close the gap between psychol...
OCT 14, 2018
Technology
OCT 14, 2018
Computational Technology Uses Genetics To Solve Crime
When detectives tracked down the Golden State Killer, who terrorized the state of California during the 1970s and 1980, they used an online genealogical da...
Loading Comments...