More than 40 businesses, including many of the UK’s largest supermarkets, have launched a voluntary pledge to cut single-use plastics in their packaging. Known as the UK Plastics Pact, the pledge includes brands such as Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, which are jointly responsible for over 80% of supermarket plastic packaging in the UK.
In addition to eliminating “problematic or unnecessary” plastic packaging by 2025, the pledge aims to make all plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable. By signing up to the pact, launched by sustainability campaign group WRAP on Thursday, participants also pledged to ensure 70% of used packaging is effectively recycled or composted. Many government ministers and environmental campaigners welcomed the initiative, which is the first of its kind globally.
“Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realised if government, businesses and the public work together,” said UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
“Industry action can prevent excess plastic reaching our supermarket shelves in the first place. I am delighted to see so many businesses sign up to this pact and I hope others will soon follow suit.”
According to The Guardian, Sainsbury’s CEO Mike Coupe added: “We all have a role to play in reducing the amount of plastics used in society. For our part we accept our responsibilities and are working hard to reduce the use of plastic across our business.”
However, critics have said the voluntary pledge falls short and pointed out there are currently no means by which to enforce it.
“Tough action from the makers and marketers of packaged goods is urgently needed to tackle the tsunami of plastic pollution entering our oceans,” said Julian Kirby, a plastic campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
Kirby said although the initiative was “a move in the right direction,” more concrete government measures were needed to ensure that corporations follow through with their promises and that the Plastic Pact’s targets are met.
Other environmental campaigners also emphasised the need for swift action.
“For this effort to succeed, it’s crucial companies go beyond just making products recyclable – they need to turn the tap off at the source,” Greenpeace UK senior oceans campaigner Louise Edge told The Independent.
“This means cutting the overall amount of throwaway plastic being produced, fast action to ditch problem plastics like PVC and Styrofoam along with unnecessary items like plastic stirrers and sachets, and switching to truly sustainable solutions.”
The pact’s launch comes as ministers in the UK are considering requiring supermarkets and retailers to contribute more towards waste collection and recycling services for the waste they produce. Currently, UK supermarkets pay less for plastic waste collection and recycling than any other country in Europe, with taxpayers left to cover 90% of the cost, according to The Guardian.
The government is expected to announce changes to the system, known as the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) scheme, this summer as part of a wider EU effort to move towards a circular economy.