Companies need to lead on tackling plastics

Letter to the editor

More supermarkets should emulate Iceland and remove plastic packaging from their products.

Recent proposals on tackling plastics by Theresa May lack the urgency needed to effectively deal with the litter filling our oceans and industry needs to lead the way.

Twenty-five years is a long time and these proposals lack the specific detail required in cutting down plastics.

Serious pressure needs to be mounted on both the producer and consumer to cut down on use of plastics and switch to alternatives at the same time.

Iceland’s five-year plan to ditch plastic from all of its own-brand products is exactly the kind of leadership that is needed.

There are plenty of alternatives to the plastic ready meal trays, cartons and plastic bags used in all supermarkets, but it just takes a big company to show leadership and make the switch.

It is not good enough for supermarkets to simply choose one plastic product and phase it out – the problem is too urgent for such a piecemeal approach.

Plastic-free aisles are a great idea which have been mooted in recent days, but what about plastic-free supermarkets, and actively promoting alternatives for consumers to use?

Supermarkets have a responsibility to cut down their waste and their use of plastics - however, this is a complex and multifaceted issue which requires the support of all shops and supermarkets, manufacturers, waste companies, national and local authorities as well as customers.

I think that there is a big responsibility on the manufacturers to increase awareness and design of alternatives in order for people to properly understand what can and cannot be recycled as well as encouraging the use of greener alternatives which do exist.

The measures announced should be part of an action plan that is desperately required in order to change habits and clean up our environment at the same time.

Schemes such as container deposit legislation, which has recently gathered momentum in the press, as well as some changes under the proposed latte levy, are all measures that could be implemented in order to address plastic use in the short term, as opposed to these longer term measures.

We have a huge plastic problem here in Northern Ireland. According to Keep NI Beautiful, between September 2012 and October 2016, 528 items of litter were observed per 100m of beach around NI and 91% of these items were plastic.

At Ards and North Down Council I recently proposed a motion that banned single use plastics from our buildings in order for us to try and reduce our waste footprint as well as encouraging others to do so – the motion has been adopted and our council will be leading the way on this vital issue.

I am also calling for the area to become part of the Refill Scheme which promotes the use of local cafes, bars and restaurants for people to fill up their bottles with water at for free, to encourage reuse of plastic bottles for drinking water.

These measures are just the start as we have already caused great destruction to our environment and need a paradigm shift in order to make any real difference and implement a truly circular economy.

Rachel Woods, Green Party councillor, Ards and North Down

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