A number of residents have contacted me to let me know they are participating in the big plastic count - good luck to them all!
Whilst my office is relatively limited plastics-wise when compared with general household waste, there are a number of plastics which come through and need to be disposed of or recycled.
My office manager Katie is particularly aware of recycling, as a local Brownie troop leader, she does all she can to get the next generation to think carefully about waste. She also does a splendid job of making sure my office recycles.
So looking at the usual plastic waste which pass through the office, we get plastic wrapped magazines and postbags which are the softer stretchy or scrunchy plastic, my staff often bring in hard plastic water bottles and sometimes plastic containers as part of their lunch and they also bring in coffee machine pods. Katie not only makes sure as much is recycled as possible but uses a coffee-pod recycling scheme - www.podback.org for anybody interested.
In Staffordshire all of our non-recyclables which go into the black bin do not go to landfill but instead get burned in the Staffordshire Energy Recovery Facility. This facility burns down the waste turning it into electricity for household use. The site at Four Ashes generates enough energy to cover over 220,000 homes each year - fantastic!
However, not all places are as keen as Staffordshire on recycling waste and many plastics do go to waste, which is what the 'Big Plastics Count' is all about. Citizen science, to help track how much single use, non-recyclable plastic and unnecessary plastic is being used by households every day. So join up, give it a go, you may be surprised.
The aim of the campaign is to highlight to Government, manufacturers, supermarkets and companies just how much plastic is being used and what more can be done to tackle the plastic crisis.
The Resources and Waste Strategy sets out the Government’s plans to reduce, reuse and recycle more plastic than we do now. I know that the Government’s target is to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste throughout the life of the 25 Year Environment Plan, but I welcome that for the most problematic plastics, my ministerial colleagues are going faster, committing to work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable or reusable by 2025.
Progress has been made in reducing single-use plastics. The use of single-use carrier bags has been reduced in the main supermarkets by over 95%, and I am glad that in May 2021, ministers increased the charge to 10p and extended it to all retailers. Many supermarkets now offer collection schemes for old plastics bags as many household waste bins do not allow plastic carrier bags to be added in - not because they cannot be recycled but because it is difficult to recycle them and bags often clog the machines. Additionally a number of supermarkets have started to provide greener, lightweight plastic bags which can be recycled as part of all general household waste. Ministers are currently consulting on other ways to recycle some of the other least recycled plastics like cling films, plastics on food trays and plastics covering goods. It may mean in future a separate collection for this type of plastic but where possible steps will be taken to keep recycling easy within the home.
You may remember than in October 2020, ministers brought in measures to ban the supply of plastic straws, plastic drinks stirrers, and plastic stemmed cotton buds. I welcome that the Government introduced a consultation on proposals to ban the supply of single-use plastic plates, cutlery, and balloon sticks, as well as expanded and extruded polystyrene food and beverage containers, including cups. It is work in progress but going well.
The Government’s Plastic Packaging Tax came into effect last month. This new tax applies to plastic packaging manufactured in, or imported into the UK, that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. This will provide a clear incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic so if you do this Big Plastic Count again next year, you may well notice a good amount of change in the types of plastics being used (if plastics are being used for packaging at all!). Ministers are also planning to introduce Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging, which will place responsibility on producers for the full cost of managing their plastic waste, incentivising them to cut waste where possible.
We will continue to review evidence, including data from groups like Greenpeace as well as our stakeholders like the Waste and Resources Action Programme and the UK Plastics Pact to see what more can be done to reduce the use of unnecessary single-use plastic items, encourage more recycling across the country.
We can all do our bit to recycle, shop wisely and reuse more than we do now. It is great to see projects like the Big Plastic Count drawing attention to plastic waste and keeping the pressure on to make change. Good luck to all participating this year!