How will the UK's plastic regulations change in 2020?
The campaign to raise awareness of how we use disposable plastic products has massively taken off in the past two years. We've had shock factor videos, large news agencies detailing the issue and enough 'last straw' puns to power the continent. Now, the British parliament has announced a huge difference that will see more than our fast food chains make changes.
At ReGen, we assess the incoming developments and what difference they will make to you.
Which plastics are the UK government banning?
It's important to understand that the government proposal is primarily made up of new controls, not outright bans. While some environmental groups have called for sweeping changes, only plastic stirrers will face a banning order. The BBC state that 316 million of such stirrers are sold every year in the UK.
Why are cotton buds in the news?
Single-use, plastic-stemmed cotton buds will leave the shop shelves but will remain available to those working in labs and medical departments. The department for the environment consulted on the ban of cotton buds and other items, which revealed the scale of the problem. In their impact assessment, they noted how damaging this little cosmetic product could be. As well as generating co2 when disposed of and in production, they can cause 'harm to marine animals and visual pollution.'
Cotton buds consistently feature in the top 10 types of marine waste and the British Retail Consortium estimates that 1.8 Billion are used every year in the UK. Expect a shift to paper stemmed buds; they already dominate the US market and are prevalent in European states.
The controls that will be introduced next year may have been inevitable, but they have undoubtedly accelerated thanks to one image. When David Attenborough's Blue Planet aired, the image of a turtle with a straw lodged in its nose terrified viewers and brought the ocean waste to millions of screens. Naturally, changes to straws were the starting point for millions of activists.
The results were extraordinary with independent businesses and chains all reacting to the public pressure to change straws. Most notably, McDonald's replaced plastic with paper straws in their restaurants following the outcry. It's not just retailers making changes and fast food chains; the Irish government banned single-use plastic from departments and government bodies.
So, who will the new plastic regulations affect?
The changes to cotton buds, straws and stirrers will initially affect those living in England from 2020. The changes will come into effect a year ahead of the same initiative in the European Union. Some countries plan on making changes to plastic bottles and other uses for the material.
Scotland is considering a Scandinavian-inspired bottle return scheme, where consumers could claim up to 20p for each returned plastic bottle. The good news for this scheme is that a 2015 poll found that up to 79% of Scots would be in favour of the change. With the public wide awake to the plastic problem, it's vital that governments act now and improve recycling as a whole.
What we do.
At ReGen, we are continually improving recycling, raising awareness of the issue and delivering better results for councils and private companies. Our commitment to research and development (10% of turnover) and advanced facility makes puts us at the forefront of recycling in the UK & Ireland.