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UK public call outs government to support compostable alternatives

A survey of 1734 UK adults conducted by YouGov found a mammoth 89% support local councils being required to collect all recyclable or compostable packaging from households. The survey also showed that:

  • More than 60% of people across the UK expressed concerned about the amount of plastic waste created in their households from daily life.

  • 86% of people also supported enabling the collection of compostable packaging alongside food waste.

According to WRAP, almost half of England’s 326 local authorities – 160 councils – do not currently provide any food waste collections, with DEFRA expected to unveil proposals for mandatory food waste collections from households in 2023.

The survey was commissioned by TIPA, a developer and manufacturer of novel compostable packaging solutions and a founding member of Compostable Coalition UK, a UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) funded research project examining how compostable packaging can be effectively collected and organically recycled at scale. The polling shows wide public support for compostables and demonstrates a desire for the UK government to do more to incentivise and support this industry to accelerate the plastics transition.

In addition to improving collection services, the survey also canvassed views on a range of other policy interventions to support tackling plastic waste.

Some 85% of people supported banning conventional plastic packaging where alternative compostable solutions were available, with 70% of people viewing a product more positively when packaged in compostable packaging.

By 2025, the UK aims to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single use packaging, making 100% plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable and ensuring 70% of plastic packaging is effectively recycled or composted.

When asked whether they felt government, brands and retailers were making as much effort as possible (with nought being the least and 10 being the most) to reduce plastic waste, the survey showed that over half of the public think government, brands and retailers are not doing enough to tackle plastic waste. Brands and retailers were deemed to be doing slightly more than the government to reduce plastic waste with 44% rating the government’s achievements as five or above, compared to 49% for brand and retailers.

This sits alongside the findings of a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which concluded that major brands and retailers will almost certainly miss their ambitious Plastic Pact targets, with flexible packaging and a lack of infrastructure identified as key barriers. This same report highlighted the need for innovation, infrastructure and investment into redesigning plastic.

Commenting on the survey, Daphna Nissenbaum, co-founder and CEO of TIPA, said: ‘From the summit of Mount Everest to the depths of our oceans, our planet is drowning in plastic and microplastic. Plastics are clogging up our seas and rivers with terrifying consequences for our marine life and the wider environment. They are now so pervasive that microplastics have even been detected in human blood.

‘It is encouraging to see such public support for compostables, but without government investment and the appropriate policy frameworks, the required collection infrastructure is unlikely to be in place to respond to overwhelming consumer appetite to mainstream compostable packaging.

‘A few weeks ago, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee concluded that government should reinvest any income raised from Extended Producer Responsibility fees and the Plastic Packaging Tax into recycling infrastructure, including compostable plastics, ‘which appear to offer the best means of managing necessary, but difficult to recycle plastic, such as plastic film’.

‘If the government is committed to achieving its plastic reduction targets by 2025 it should consider supporting the development and growth of the compostables’ industry – or risk handing the advantage to polluting conventional plastic. The findings of this poll confirm that DEFRA would command broad public support if it introduced a new effective policy mandating the collection of compostable packaging alongside food waste across England to ensure that materials are composted at end of life.’


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