The UK Government is treating the symptoms, rather than the causes, of plastic pollution.
That’s the suggestion made in a new report from thinktank Green Alliance, which said the government’s strategy of tackling plastic pollution by addressing individual uses of plastic, like some plastic bags and microbeads, “completely fails to deal with the root of the problem”.
Whilst it notes bans on items likely to damage the environment are necessary, it states there is a wider need to improve the sustainability of resources used and cut waste across the country.
It highlights the new ban on plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds has pushed companies to substitute plastic for other materials in these products, without changing the fact they are single-use and wasteful in nature, suggesting this will continue to cause unnecessary environmental problems.
It adds “endemic problems” of the current system include health risks of persistent harmful chemicals in food packaging, poor management of compostable plastics and limited impact of the plastic bag tax which it argues may have led to a “dramatic rise” in the use of thicker ‘bags for life’.
The thinktank emphasises any material should be safe, sustainable and efficient to use, while businesses and governments must focus on reducing the amount of materials used overall.
Colin Church, CEO of The Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and Chair of the Circular Economy Task Force, said: “The way we consume and waste resources in the UK is unsustainable and it’s not just plastic that has an impact.
“What is needed now is an approach that leads the UK to a truly circular economy where all materials are properly valued and any problems they cause are minimised as much as possible.”