Every year in the UK, we throw away enough plastic to circle the world five times. If plastic is irresponsibly dealt with (e.g. littered) it can make its way into our oceans, threatening marine life.
Recycling is the best disposal option for our plastics, keeping it in use and out of the environment. In fact, we have gone from recycling no plastics to 45% of our plastics in 15 years – which is great progress. But we can all do more, and recycling isn’t the only solution to the plastics crisis.
Plastic Free July® is a global movement that invites millions of people to be part of the solution to plastic pollution. The mission of the movement is to create cleaner streets, oceans and communities.
British charity WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) works hard to promote and encourage sustainable resource use through product design, waste minimisation, re-use, recycling and reprocessing of waste materials. Their vision is a world in which resources are used sustainably.
WRAP’s Clear on Plastics campaign launched in 2020 and is designed to cut through the confusion on plastics, to give people the latest insights and evidence on plastics.
We sat down with Clear on Plastic’s Behaviour Change Project Manager, Laura Copsey, to discuss the importance of taking action against plastic waste. And what both organisations and individuals can do to help combat the problem.
WRAP works in the space between governments, businesses, citizens and others to bring about real and sustainable change that benefits the environment. There are four key areas that WRAP works in: reducing food waste, tackling plastic pollution, reducing textile waste and recycling. As an evidenced-based organisation, WRAP conducts research into specific areas of interest to understand more about how we can all act more sustainably and reduce waste. And support governments, businesses and citizens to realise this change.
The UK Plastic Pact is an initiative that brings together businesses, governments, NGOs and citizens to tackle the issue of plastic waste. Members vary from major supermarkets, to self-care brands, to campaigning organisations, waste processors and local and national governments – to name just a few!
Members of The UK Plastics Pact are working towards a set of targets designed to eliminate problematic and unnecessary single-use plastics, making way for more recyclable plastics and reusable options. The Pact also works with citizens to boost recycling rates and looks to increase recycled content in plastic packaging.
It is a world-first initiative which is now being replicated across the globe, and WRAP works internationally to support similar initiatives overseas.
When the UK Plastics Pact launched in 2018, it was clear citizens had a role to play in reducing plastic pollution, alongside the work happening by governments and businesses. Research showed that confusion around plastics was a barrier to good plastics behaviours – like reducing, reusing and recycling plastics. So Clear on Plastics was launched as a way to cut through the confusion and bring citizens all the information they needed to know on plastics.
To address the confusion in the most tangible way, Clear on Plastics tackles the biggest questions citizens have around plastics, such as ‘are all plastics bad?’, ‘why can’t we switch from plastics to other materials, like glass?’ and ‘why should we reuse and refill plastics?’. The campaign aims to answer these common questions on its website www.clearonplastics.com and across its Instagram and Twitter channels (@ClearOnPlastics).
We’ve all become more aware of the impact that plastics can have on our environment. Not only do plastics use natural resources and release carbon emissions in production and transit, they can have a harmful impact when they escape into the environment through littering and pollution.
The single best thing we can do to limit this damage is to make the most of the plastics already in use to reduce demand for new plastics. Moving from single-use plastic by reducing and re-using means that less plastic is needed on the market. This helps to eliminate plastic waste and can significantly reduce greenhouse gases emissions.
Organisations can ensure there is a good recycling process in their offices, and that staff are well informed about how to best recycle. They can also make sure to offer non single-use plastics, such as washable cutlery and crockery.
For those that want to take the extra step and show a real commitment to change, they can look into the opportunities to work as part of The UK Plastics Pact.
We all have a part to play in reducing plastic pollution. Recycling is a key part of this; ensuring that plastic is kept in the economy and out of the environment. But it’s important to remember that, where possible, we should reduce or re-use before recycling. As the mantra goes – reduce, re-use, recycle!
Here are Clear on Plastics’ top tips to use plastics in the most sustainable way: