105,000 tonnes of plastic packaging to go to waste this Christmas

Environmental organisations are calling for the government to lay out plans for businesses to tackle waste in 2023, as waste over Christmas is likely to reach huge levels.  

An estimated 104,946 tonnes of plastic packaging is expected to end up in landfills or be exported overseas this Christmas, equivalent to the weight of 218,000 polar bears.  

These figures come from Wildlife and Countryside Link which estimates a further 2,164 of aluminium foil, 109km2 of wrapping paper and 277,400 tonnes of cardboard could go to waste this year.  

Now several organisations are urging the government to have more ambitious recycling and waste targets, as currently less than half of our waste is recycled, according to official data.  

However, actual figures could be even lower than this, as the Big Plastic Count found just 12% of plastic packaging is being recycled in the UK with 17% exported, 25% buried in landfill and 45% incinerated.  

gift boxes

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, said: ‘Christmas can be bags of fun without massive bags of landfill, but too often consumers end-up pushed toward waste by the choices on offer. Businesses shouldn’t be allowed to barrage consumers with unnecessary packaging or place badly-designed single-use items on the market. Who wants to see extra plastic and cardboard bulking out the shelves, or fragile single-use items that end up in our rivers and ocean? 

‘Industry-led voluntary initiatives have failed to deliver the scale of change we need, and 2022 has seen Government plans to tackle waste fall far behind track. Next year, Government should prioritise its Deposit Return and Producer Responsibility plans, so that we can finally stem the flow of unnecessary waste.’  

England failed to reach its target to recycle 50% of waste by 2020, as rates actually fell by 1.5% compared to 2019. Rates in Wales, however, rose by 0.1%, reaching levels of 56.5%.  

Some supermarkets have pledged to reduce excess packaging, with Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Aldi aiming to halve their own brand plastic by 2025, but campaigners say voluntary promises often fail to deliver.  

The groups, including WWF UK, Greenpeace UK, the Marine Conservation Society and Keep Britain Tidy, are calling for targets to halve single use plastic by 2025 and halve resource consumption by 2030.  

They say bans on particularly polluting single use items should be in place, large retailers should incentivise reuse of packaging and there should be a plastic tax which raises 30% of minimum recycled content. A Deposit Return Scheme would also allow items to be reused more in a closed loop system.  

Additionally, the Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging (EPR), which embeds the polluter pays principle, could ‘see businesses incentivised to develop efficient and low-impact packaging’, according to Keep Britain Tidy.  

Photo by freestocks


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