The UK's waste crisis and what we can do about it

What is the situation with the UKs plastic waste?

We might have been aware, thanks to programmes like BBC's War on Plastic, that the UK exports a lot of its plastic waste, however this week new reports have been released on the scale of this issue. 

A report from Greenpeace has revealed that the UK generates more plastic waste per person that any country other than the US, and '40% - or 210,000 tonnes - of the UK's plastic waste exports were sent to Turkey last year'.

Despite being illegal, the UK is dumping its plastic waste on other countries, particularly Turkey which is becoming the site of Europe's largest waste dump. The BBC investigated this particular waste dump in 2020. Other locations include Malaysia and Poland, where packaging from UK supermarkets have been found.

This is waste that the public think they have recycled responsibly, but rather than being recycled , it is being exported, dumped and burned.

What is being done already?

From 21st May, the plastic bag charge will increase from 5p to 10p. The introduction of the 5p bag charge in 2015 reduced the take up of plastic bags by 95%. In the fight against plastic pollution, the government have banned microbeads, prohibited sale of straws, stirrers and cotton buds, and are bringing in a tax on plastic packaged products from 2022.

Is enough being done?

Given the extent of the crisis, and the fact that the UK is the second worst plastic polluter in the world, these actions are not nearly enough. The government need to tackle to biggest sources of plastic pollution head on, such as equipment from commercial fishing such as fishing nets, and put in harsher restrictions on supermarkets and consumer goods companies. 

What can we do? 

1. Sign the petition from Greenpeace for governments to fix the plastic crisis and stop dumping our waste on other countries

2. Keep up to date on government actions relating to environment, and be vocal about what you want your government to do for you

3. Don't rely on recycling, we've learnt now that much of the waste we think is being recycled is actually being dumped on other countries and burned - reuse and refill wherever possible 

How can I set myself up to reduce my plastic waste?

If you have a zero waste or refill shop near you, you can take any containers you have in your house (old takeaway tubs, tupperware, laundry liquid bottles, fairy liquid bottles) and refill anything from rice, pasta, nuts, seeds, cleaning products, personal care products, oils, and much more!

When shopping in supermarkets and other stores, try to opt for the fruit and veg that comes unpackaged, can you make a switch in a recipe? In general, greengrocers and smaller deli shops will have more unpackaged fruit and veg than a supermarket. Or try something new? If you do inevitably end up with plastic packaging, can you reuse it , or donate it to a refill shop for other customers to use? 

Try to make switches to plastic free versions of your everyday products such as toothpaste, toothbrushes and cotton buds.

You can browse our range of plastic free products here

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