tackling packaging waste

tackling packaging waste

Tracey Banks

How is the GOVERNMENT proposing to tackle plastic recycling?

On 15 October, the UK Government launched its new governance system on issues covering clean air, waste management and plastics pollution, natural capital approaches and water stewardship, in the form of the long-awaited Environment Bill. 

New waste management proposals are covered by this and the Government's Resources and Waste Strategy, outlined late last year:

  • Tackle the current postcode recycling lottery under which different materials are recyclable in different areas
  • Introduce consistent labelling on packaging so consumers know what they can recycle
  • Make the firms that produce materials responsible for the cost of disposing of those items
  • Encourage manufacturers to design products that last longer and increase the levels of repair and re-use
  • Crack down on waste crime by introducing electronic tracking of waste shipments
  • Introduce a tax on plastic packaging made of less than 30% recycled plastic
  • Ban plastic packaging where an alternative material could be used
  • Improve the quality of plastic being exported

What are the SUPERMARKETS doing about plastic?

Experts believe UK supermarkets create around 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year. 

Almost all of the UK's major supermarket chains have signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, which launched in April 2018.

The pact, led by sustainability experts at WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), aims to tackle plastic waste by bringing together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain, UK governments and NGOs.

More than 120 organisations, including major food and drink brands, manufacturers, retailers and plastic reprocessors, have signed up to hit a series of targets by 2025.

These include:

  • Eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or alternative (re-use) delivery models.
  • 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  • 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted.
  • 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.

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What can WE do?

(whilst we wait for sustainable supermarket packaging)


  • Be selective about what you buy at supermarkets
  • Choose unpackaged fruit and vegetables when available
  • Choose easy to recycle and highly recyclable materials (glass, tin, cardboard)


  • Decide between brands by the amount of packaging used
  • Minimise non-recyclable plastic


  • Take your own containers to supermarkets for meat, fish, cheese and deli products
  • Choose refill shopping, package-free in reusable containers


  • Keep your eye out for 'Plastic-Free' badged products (teabags, crisps etc) in compostable packaging
  • Choose compostable packaging over plastic packaging


  • Make sure you know which plastic you can recycle (and, importantly, cannot recycle) in your area
  • Typically, crunchy (non-stretchy plastic films and bags are harder to recycle


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