The UK government has recently published a 25 Year Environment Plan (25YEP) showing its commitments to improve the environment. One of the goals is to minimise waste, mainly plastic and plastic packaging. It is estimated that nearly 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced globally since the 1950s, and with the expected demand growth it will reach around 34 billion tonnes by 2050. However, most of the plastics will eventually end up in landfills or oceans and threaten the environment.
The UK government has suggested a number of approaches to minimise the plastic waste. It plans to extend its 5p plastic bag charges to small retailers which are currently exempted from the scheme. The levy started two years ago, resulted in 85% reduction in plastic waste.
The plan also aims to urge supermarkets introduce plastic-free aisles. Items in the produce section such as fruit, vegetables are also expected to be sold loose rather than packaged with thin films. Some supermarkets in the UK have made commitments to minimise or totally ditch plastic in their packaging.
Commodity Inside View: We understand that there would be positive implications on the environment by restricting the usage of the plastic through some of the recommended measures. However, they would increase food wastage as well as impact various industries including plastic and its end-use sectors. Increase in final products prices and reduction in sales would be the two main obvious aftermaths.
The government is also suggesting bottle deposit scheme and impose a 5p levy on a PET water bottle. We do not think it is applicable for various reasons such as hygiene and increase in costs of bottles in case the retailers want to make it reusable. Although the availability of free drinking water in departmental stores would certainly make a difference by reducing PET bottles, though would have a serious repercussion for mineral water sales. Returnable glass bottle for soft drinks sector would be an ideal alternative, though require bulky deposit machines which would occupy precious retail space. In addition to food and beverage, cosmetics and household sectors would also get affected. The government also plans to ban microbeads usage in cosmetics.
Commodity Inside suggestions: We suggest that plastic cutlery and cups should be made from biodegradable materials. Most of the coffee cups and fast food packaging are currently non-biodegradable which is accounting for a huge part of plastic wastage and ending up in landfill and oceans. Using tote bags is another effective way of curtailing single-use plastic bags. Moreover, brand owners need to be encouraged to reduce non-recyclable plastics and stop using single-use plastic packaging.