The UK Government published its 25 Year Environment Plan in January 2018, which includes a target of “achieving zero avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042”. DEFRA’s waste and resources strategy 2018/19 also sets out a number of plastic waste reduction reforms to help the Government achieve its ambitious plans for a greener future. This includes proposals for further financial incentives to change consumer habits and greater responsibilities for retailers and manufacturers.
In July 2019, the Council made a commitment to:
- Remove single-use plastics from the Council’s operations and activities, replacing them with sustainable alternatives by 2023;
- Continue to support national plastic free campaigns such as Refill;
- Develop an action plan that sets out how the Council will reduce its own use of single-use plastic, and how the Council will encourage and promote plastic free initiatives borough wide;
- Establish a community group to help achieve our aspiration for the borough to become a certified Plastic Free Community;
- Report back to Council with a report on progress.
Single-use plastics can include any disposable plastic item which is designed to be used only once e.g. plastic bags, disposable utensils, wet wipes, razor blades, food wrappers and plastic lids. Plastic waste is one of the greatest environmental challenges facing the world today. The UK estimates that there are currently more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, and 100,000 sea mammals and one million birds die from eating or becoming tangled in plastic waste each year. 320,000,000 tonnes of plastic were generated globally in 2016. This is set to double by 2034. (www.sas.org.uk)
The impacts of climate change and plastic pollution are causing serious damage around the world. The impact on everyone in Telford and Wrekin is also likely to be profound, with risks to life, property and the environment, if no action is taken. For example:
- 8 million pieces of plastic go into the ocean each day;
- Single-use plastic bottles account for 40% of all litter by volume;
- 1 million seabirds a year die from plastic pollution;
- 1 in 4 fish caught for human consumption now contain plastic.
These issues are compounded by the fact that 50% of plastic produced is used only once and can then remain in the environment for up to 400 years. Plastics, which do not biodegrade but photodegrade (meaning they slowly breakdown into smaller fragments) are known as microplastics. During the breakdown the toxic chemicals used in their formation are released into the environment. These pass into water supplies, rivers, seas and through farmland, where they are absorbed by plants and animals, and thus enter the food chain which includes the human food chain.
The Council recognises that it should be leading the way, in educating the public, encouraging our staff to take action and providing an example of what can be achieved in replacing single-use plastics with more sustainable alternatives. Our strategy is divided into two main parts:
- Single-Use Plastic Free Council;
- Single-Use Plastic Free Community.
The Council has already made many significant steps to reducing the amount of single-use plastic it uses and is committed to play a key role in reducing the effects of single-use plastics within the Borough and further afield. An update report on progress made to date in fulfilling the Council's commitment to phase out single-use plastics by 2023 was presented to Cabinet on 8th October 2020 and proposed new actions focussing on the leadership and engagement with the Community to work toward Telford and Wrekin's Plastic Free Borough status.
In many cases there are practical alternatives available that are either re-usable or more sustainable. The Council will develop a Green Guide to provide practical advice for local businesses and organisations on how to improve sustainability, including reducing single-use plastics and their carbon footprint. If you would like to contribute to the Green Guide please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Council has set up and worked collaboratively with the Plastic Free Taskforce, made up of a wide range of local organisations, to ensure the impact is borough-wide. The Council also recognises and welcomes the work that a growing number of local organisations are already doing to address this issue. Thank you.