According to Which?, Supermarkets in the UK create around 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year.
In order to combat this some of the top retailers in the country are looking at ways to replace single use plastics. This is most well-known by the implementation of the plastic bag charge in 2014 but supermarkets are also now using alternative materials.
This dash by some of the larger supermarkets to replace their single use plastics for alternatives that appear to be kinder to the environment is a brilliant development on the surface of things. However research may still need to be carried out on these other replacements as to how and even if the current infrastructure can process them.
For example, the majority of recycling facilities producing PAS100 compost across the country will be unable to accept biodegradable and compostable plastic bags. Likewise, paper carrier bags may not be recoverable from kerbside collections if they are made from wet strength paper and would need to be collected separately in order to be recycled.
A lot of organisations are also replacing things like plastic crockery and cutlery with more expensive biodegradable or compostable “single use” alternatives that can’t be collected with food waste, or green waste, or mixed recyclables so they may have to be disposed of as general waste in either energy from waste facilities or landfill. Whereas a better approach would be to replace single use items with reusable items instead.
There needs to be better consultation with the waste industry to evaluate the whole life benefits of these replacement materials and how they can be recycled.
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