Only a few short years ago, shoppers would of thought nothing of getting through dozens of plastic bags each week; often with little consideration for the environmental consequences.
God, I remember the days when you might ‘double bag’ heavier items to make sure you didn’t end up with a splitting catastrophe right in the middle of the car park. How could I have possibly known back then I was living in Roman orgy levels of decadence?
Thankfully, the way consumers view plastic bags has changed beyond recognition since the dawn of the 5p charge. Now, getting through heaps of bags is seen as being highly wasteful, not to mention pricey.
Shoppers are becoming increasingly aware about their impact on the planet, but there is still a hell of a way to go. And it’s always good to see colossal supermarket chains recognising their own sizeable contribution.
As part of a new sustainability scheme, Tesco has begun trialling recycling machines in-store, which will pay customers 10p for each plastic bottle returned.
It is hoped these machines will encourage and incentivise more shoppers to recycle plastic bottles, while simplifying the recycling process.
Jason Tarry, UK and ROI CEO, has made the following statement:
We are already committed to eliminating single use plastic wherever we can and make recycling simpler for customers. Today is another step in that direction
However, we know that it is going to take retailers, manufacturers and government to work together to make progress. We would urge the government to move to a single, nationwide approach to waste collection that makes it much easier for people to recycle.
This initiative is currently underway at selected stores in Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire and Swansea. If it proves to be a success, further machines will be rolled out nationwide.
Furthermore, from October 3 onwards, Tesco shoppers can reuse their own multi-use plastic containers when purchasing meat, cheese or fish from deli and fish counters across UK stores.
Rather than using single-use plastic bags, products will instead be weighed and wrapped within recyclable paper before being put inside the container with the price label placed on the paper itself.
This news comes after Tesco announced it will ban all non-recyclable plastic by the year 2019. Tesco has also called for the UK government to help towards establishing a consistent recycling infrastructure which would allow a ‘closed loop’ system, whereby waste would be avoided altogether.
According to a 2017 report on plastic bottle by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee, the UK gets through 13 billion plastic bottles each year, with just 7.5 billion being recycled. The other 5.5 billion are either landfilled, littered, or incinerated.
According to this report, consumption of bottled water has doubled over the past 15 years, making up approximately half of all UK plastic bottles:
To reduce the 7.7 billion plastic water bottles used each year in the UK, a culture of carrying a reusable bottle should be embedded through the provision of public water fountains and access to free tap water.
We call upon the Government to introduce a regulation for all premises which serve food or drink to provide free drinking water upon request, including sports centres and leisure centres.
The Government should review the health and litter-reducing benefits of providing public water fountains and amend the Water Industry Act 1991 to give water companies formal powers to erect water fountains. These actions could cut usage of plastic water bottles by 65%.
The House of Commons and the Government should show leadership and phase out bottled water sales and encourage the use of re-usable bottles.
It takes 450 years for a plastic bottle to decompose.
A MILLION plastic bottles are sold every one minute. pic.twitter.com/MYEkFinJ3T
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) October 20, 2018
The new initiative could be a crucial next step towards bottling our harmful attitude towards plastic waste for good. Will other supermarkets follow suit?
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.