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EU and Britain working together on plastics
The last year has been a difficult one for the relationship between Great Britain and the rest of the EU nations. Brexit has clouded discussions on many things that all nations of Europe have concerns about including the threat posed to the environment by the uncontrolled spread of discarded waste plastic.
The EU in late January published a master plan to combat throwaway plastics such as straws, bottles, coffee cups and cutlery. This follows a number of significant announcements including one from the nationwide food chain Iceland who announced that they are committed to stop using plastics in their packaging within five years and replace them with biodegradable alternatives. Similarly Waitrose have pledged to remove the difficult to recycle black plastic trays it uses for meats and other fresh produce by the end of 2018. Plastic straws will be removed from the shelves of Morrisons, Waitrose and the restaurant chain Wagamama.
This sentiment was echoed by European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans who said the EU would clamp down on single use plastic products. “Single use plastics that take five seconds produce, you use it for five minutes and it takes 500 years to break down again. We are going to choke on plastic if we don’t do anything about this.”
The European Union is backing up their strong language with extensive research programs into finding suitable alternative packaging as well as finding ways to tax single use plastics. The most pressing concern is black plastics. These are difficult to recycle as infra red sensors in recycling plants have problems in detecting it. The black plastic instead is burnt in vast quantities releasing harmful gases into the atmosphere in the process.
At the same time a campaign group called A Plastic Planet has been campaigning for ‘plastic free aisles’ in supermarkets where consumers can chose to select products not packaged in traditional plastics and make an ethical choice for themselves.