Can We Eliminate Plastic Waste by 2042?

On January 11th, Prime Minister Theresa May addressed the nation with Britain’s plan to move forward environmentally and eliminate plastic waste by 2042. May expressed that parliament recognised the threats on the environment through plastic waste, stating that this is ‘a great environmental scourge of our time’. With a 25-year deadline, the question arises as to how exactly the UK will eliminate plastic waste.

Plastic free aisles

During the 25-year period, May has committed to working with supermarkets to implement plastic free aisles. This is with the hope that unrecyclable plastic isn’t being used unnecessarily. It is suggested that introducing these aisles in supermarkets will not only physically cut down the amount of plastic used, but also change the approach that people have towards plastic waste. People may reconsider whether they actually need the extra plastic and in future opt to not use it.

Clamping down on 5p bags

Towards the end of 2015 the UK introduced the 5p plastic bag charge. Within the first year, there was an 85% reduction in the number of plastic bags used. However, there were also certain loopholes within the law. If a business had less than 250 members of staff, they weren’t required to charge 5p for a plastic bag. This has now been scrapped, and all companies must charge 5p for a plastic bag.

Making produces easier to recycle

May also states that the government are going to make it easier for people to recycle plastic. Industries will be encouraged to take greater responsibility for the impact of the environment caused by their products, and making them easier to recycle.

Hugo Tagholm, chief executive of Surfers Against Sewage welcomes May’s plan, stating that the UK uses 38.5 million single use plastic bottle and cans everyday. Only half of those are recyclable. If individuals were to reuse or recycle plastic bottles, and companies made their plastic bottles recyclable, the amount of plastic waste will see a dramatic reduction.

What do people think?

While many are pleased to hear the long overdue recognition from May and the environmental plan put in place, some environmental activists seem to see this as a wasted opportunity. Critics suggest the 25-year deadline lacked urgency and detail. Along with emissions crisis – for which monitoring is being enhanced using new systems – plastic remains one of the biggest environmental problems.