Councils urged to do more to tackle single-use plastic waste

Nearly two-thirds of councils are unaware of how many single-use plastic bottles they’ve bought in the last five years, new research has revealed.

A Freedom of Information Request to UK local authorities by SodaStream revealed that only 38% of the 108 councils approached could provide details of the volume of single-use plastic bottles that they had bought over the last five years, with 34% admitting that they did not hold such information.

In addition, more than half (55%) of councils did not hold information on how many bottles they recycled or sent to landfill. Of those councils that did report on handling of plastic bottle waste, the majority had recycled between 80-100% of their bottles.

Just 14% of councils were found to have specific plastic bottle policies for staff or elected officials. Likewise, only 8% of all councils approached had polices for plastic bottle usage in their owned or leased premises, whilst under a third (28%) were engaged with local plastic bottle waste initiatives.

The FOI request did highlight a number of examples of single-use plastic reduction activities that were being undertaken by some councils.

Greater London Authority had introduced a new plastic free policy in 2018, which had reduced plastic bottles from 28,013 in 2017 to 4,323 in 2018.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Roads and Landscape Services is currently working on procuring reusable, branded plastic bottles for all the frontline staff to use and refill at their depots.

Monmouthshire County Council has changed its school milk contract, so that all 437,000 school milk bottles are now glass and not plastic. 

Ceredigion Council, also in Wales, has committed to reducing single-use plastics within its facilities and offices and to promote the use of sustainable alternatives at all council supported events.

Tiago Alves, general manager UK at SodaStream said: ‘There are some really good examples of local councils taking the initiative but it is clear that there is a lot of work to do in terms of reporting on what they are doing in this area.

‘As councils provide the means for households in the UK to recycle their plastic waste, they need to be setting an example to the general public. They may actually be doing a good job but the picture is unclear as many do not hold the information or they simply didn’t respond to the freedom of information request.

‘Our report shows that the findings might be only the tip of the iceberg as the request only focussed on single-use plastic bottles and not other products such as plastic straws and bags for example.’

‘There is a great opportunity for councils to share best practice and make a real step change.’


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