Retail businesses are being urged to prioritise their efforts to reduce single-use plastics by Bureau Veritas, following an increase in plastic waste in 2020 as firms took steps to limit human contact during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some cafe chains and train operators banned reusable cups at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, while a number of supermarkets removed loose fruit and vegetables to reduce the risk of transmission. The 5p charge for single-use plastic bags was waived for online deliveries between March and September 2020.
This prioritisation of hygiene over sustainability fuelled a rise in single-use plastic waste after years of strong efforts to begin tackling the global plastic waste issue.
Now, Bureau Veritas, a sustainability authority and global leader in testing, inspection and certification services, says it is time to get back on track towards a low carbon future. This is especially important ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), set to be hosted by the UK in November.
David Murray, Technical Director for Sustainability at Bureau Veritas said, “the circular economy business model will be key if the UK is to achieve the Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 and reducing the use of single-use plastics plays an important part in this. Undoubtedly, tackling this issue will be a key priority ahead of the COP26 hosted by the UK in Glasgow later this year.
“The surge in single-use plastics last year was necessary, but now that the world has largely adjusted to COVID-secure measures in the supply chain, we should be looking at ways to reduce plastic waste once again.”
International and national policy changes and increased efforts throughout supply chains have driven progress in the UK’s efforts to reduce plastic waste as part of a wider approach to improve sustainability. The 5p charge on carrier bags for example, which is set to double in April 2021, has reduced their use by over 80 per cent.
However, with the UK’s ban on single-use plastic items including straws and stirrers now in force (delayed from April 2020 to October 2020), it is vital to prioritise efforts once again.
David added, “we’re still seeing examples of firms taking steps to reduce their impact through packaging innovation and other measures. Just this month Co-op announced it is removing the plastic packaging from its Easter eggs as part of a drive to cut unnecessary plastic from its own-brand ranges. But more still needs to be done by UK businesses to embed sustainability into their operations and this is the perfect opportunity to refocus their efforts.”