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Definition and development of functional barriers for the use of recycled materials in multilayer food packaging

TECHNOLOGICAL WATCH

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PM's plastics purge launched in environment plan to rid UK of waste packaging by 2042

Prime Minister Theresa May is to announce a purge of single use plastics from the UK economy, as she unveils a ’25-year environmental plan’ in the south London borough of Barnes.

The Government intends to raise taxes on plastic packaging, and get rid of all ‘avoidable’ plastic waste by 2042.

She will also encourage a ‘plastic free aisle’ in supermarkets. Speaking to Andrew Marr on his BBC politics shows, she said the plastic carrier bag levy had been impressive: “We now see nine billion fewer plastic bags being used … it’s making a real difference. We want to do the same in relation to single plastic use - nobody who watched ‘Blue Planet’ will doubt the need to do something.”

The Prime Minister’s speech comes in the same week as a recommendation from parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee to introduce a levy on takeaway coffee cups, amidst concerns over the 99 per cent of cups sent to landfill.

× Ocean Litter

The plan will include a pledge for funding plastics innovation in the materials science sector. The 5p bag charge introduced in 2015 will be extended to every retailer – previously it only applied to stores with more than 25 employees.

Labour said the plan was a “cynical attempt at rebranding the Tories' image” while the Liberal Democrats said it “beggared belief” that a target of 2042 had been set for removing plastic waste and that action was needed.

The plans could be viewed as a ‘repackaging’ of slated European legislation to use a continent-wide plastics levy to fill the fiscal gap left by Brexit. The European Commission’s budget secretary Günther Oettinger, said:  “We produce and use too many plastics which, despite recycling efforts, become rubbish which we cannot sell on global markets any longer in a way we used to do it in the past because of China.”

Despite Brexit, the UK Government appears to continue to hitch its environmental wagon to the European Parliament’s plans.

The CEO of WRAP, the plastics recycling advocacy group which will join the Government’s action in the 25 year plan, Marcus Gover, said: “So far the solutions to plastic waste have been piecemeal. I am pleased to be leading this holistic initiative which will transform the UK’s plastics system. Working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we will bring together every ‘body, business and organisation’ involved in the life-cycle of plastics to make the move from a throw away culture to one where resources are used over and over again.”

Ellen MacArthur, who has led a high-profile circular economy campaign for a decade, said: “Creating a circular economy for plastics amounts to a huge opportunity for the economy as well as providing a longer-term benefit for the environment. Achieving it will require close collaboration and significant commitment from industry, government, and society at large. We are delighted to work with WRAP to help unleash such collaboration here in the UK, as a first national implementation initiative of our global New Plastics Economy initiative."

For plastic to become valued and never become waste it’s imperative that everybody from those producing it (brands, retailers, food service businesses, packaging suppliers and plastic producers), collecting it (local and city authorities), sorting it and recycling it (waste management and recycling sector), to those using it (citizens) as well as Government, NGOs and media are involved. Everyone in the UK can and should engage.”

Samantha Harding, Litter Programme Director at the Campaign to Protect Rural England said: “It’s impressive the Government has chosen to respond so emphatically to the plastic plague that is already putting our countryside, cities and oceans at risk of irreversible harm. The charge on plastic bags has shown that we easily adapt to financial incentives, so the prospect of further charges or taxes that could eliminate products like plastic straws and stirrers is really positive news. And promoting innovation amongst producers will be critical to ensuring we eliminate unnecessary single-use items, as well as making sure that they are taking financial responsibility for the impact these products have.”

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research, technological development and demonstration (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° [606572].

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