But recycling and packaging companies argue that lesser packaging might result in an increase in spoiled and inedible foods being thrown away due to inadequate preservation.
For quite some time now all across Europe, having to pay for a plastic bag at the supermarket is a commonly accepted practice. The idea is not to make revenue as such, but rather to encourage people to bring their own bag and contribute to reducing plastic pollution, which is now becoming out of hand. This is why the news that UK government is only now starting to consider the introduction of extra charges for plastics comes as quite a surprise.
Even more surprising is that the idea presented by Nick Clegg, UK’s depute prime minister, at the Liberal Democrat annual conference, met quite an opposition not by retailers, but by recycling and packaging companies, who see a different problem related to pollution, which could be triggered by poor packaging.
Let’s look into the story in a bit more detail. It is clear that paying for plastic bags is a way to cut down on their use. Charging is a necessary and inevitable move in order to reduce plastic pollution, which currently has a greater extend than any other detectable human impact on the environment. The practice has proven very successful not only across the old continent, but also on the island. In some parts of Wales for example, since the introduction of the charge, people have reduced the use of plastic bags by 96%, and the revenue made from plastic bags have been sent to environmental and children charities.
But according to Incpen, a packaging industry organisation, plastic bags account for only 0.03% of the plastic pollution, the rest comes from packaging. Nevertheless, the experts in the field argue that adequate wrapping and preservation ensures that the product is delivered in a good condition for consumption. In addition, according to Jane Bickerstaffe of Incpen, using plastic package helps preserving on resources, considering the impact fertilizers and water usage required for production have on the environment.
Another problem that arises is the fact that companies are desperately trying to find alternatives to plastic packaging, but these often do not comply with current recycling methods and techniques. This for example is the case with biodegradable plastics, which end up with general plastic wastes in recycling containers and introduce contamination.
However, one thing is clear. Plastics are highly resistant to bio-degradation. Once in sea, plastics end up in the digestive system of marine habitats, presenting a huge threat to many species. The current amount of plastics being dumped in the sea should take thousands of years to degrade. Let’s hope we do not extend this period.