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The final straw

We have all seen the damage caused by plastic that ends up in our oceans, seas and rivers. It is reported that 12 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans every year, and as a result there have been calls for a worldwide crackdown on plastic pollution.

Now the Government has announced measures to help eliminate single use plastic by building a consultation to look at banning plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in England. The move is part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, and it will follow Scotland’s intentions to ban plastic straws which was announced in February 2018.

Straws, stirrers and plastic cotton buds form the ‘usual suspects’ regularly during beach clean up operations and last year, pickers found on average 26.9 cotton buds per 100 meters of beach front. Due to their size, these items can be easily mistaken for food and digested by wildlife. In addition, 44 billion plastic drinks stirrers are used in the UK every year, and 8.5 billion plastic drinking straws are binned annually!

The Government will launch the consultation later this year following pressure from campaigners and major retailers, such as McDonald’s, Wetherspoon and Wagamama who have already started to phase out plastic straws. Retailers including Boots, Tesco and Aldi (to name a few) have also begun eliminating plastic cotton buds and replacing them with paper-based alternatives instead.

Commenting on the consultation plans, Prime Minister Theresa May, said: “The British public have shown passion and energy embracing our plastic bag charge and microbeads ban, and today we have put forward ambitious plans to further reduce plastic waste from straws, stirrers and cotton buds. Together we can effect real change so that future generations can enjoy a natural environment that is healthier than we currently find it.”

Nearly all solid, clear plastic can be recycled so there is no need for this plastic pollution to continue. Casepak’s Materials Recycling Facility is able to recycle dark plastics such as food trays and tubs through our state-of-the-art optical sorter.

Education is also key – at Casepak we often find that some residents are confused about what can and cannot be recycled. After all, every local authority’s collection remit is different. To combat this, we ensure we work with each local authority we serve to help educate residents so that recycling is as easy as possible for them. We are also in the process of finalising our education programme and look forward to welcoming local schools to introduce children to materials recycling at an early age.

Advances in technology and research need to continue to make sure recyclers have the right technology to be able to cope with different grades of plastic that enter their facilities.

While the war on plastic goes on, we must work together will help ensure our planet is protected and enhanced for future generations.