There are a growing number of examples, led by retailers and brands, on new ways to reduce single-use plastics. This follows a shift in the public awareness of the topic and the subsequent problems caused by the growth of plastic pollution worldwide, as highlighted in the BBC’s Blue Planet II television series.

For the ‘Top 10 worst plastic polluters worldwide’ – click here.

In the UK, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has launched a consultation on 27th December 2018 on the extension of the Single-use Carrier Bag Charge to all retailers – for the details click here.

The consultation also seeks views on increasing the minimum charge to 10p (from 5p currently) to reduce the effect of plastic bags in the environment. Additional proposals also include: requiring producers of single-use carrier bags to report how much they sell and removing the 5p charge exemption at security restricted areas in airports. Note that the consultation closes on 22nd February 2019. The expectation is that this change to 10p will reduce total bag usage by 53% between now and 2028 (see table below).

This should be welcomed, however I personally think that on the subject of single-use carrier bags, supermarkets and other retailers should be following the very positive lead taken by the Co-op, of introducing compostable carrier bags. This is an excellent example – for more information, click here.

“The first step to remove single-use plastic will be to launch compostable carrier bags in our stores. They are a simple but ingenious way to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to plastic shopping bags.” Jo Whitfield, Co-op Retail Chief Executive

Waitrose in turn has taken another step forward in its bid to reduce plastic from its shelves with the introduction of recyclable cardboard grape punnets (pictured below) which will replace the traditional plastic punnets for its Waitrose Duchy Organic and Waitrose 1 Sable grapes. Waitrose & Partners is the first UK supermarket to sell grapes packaged this way.

This switch to recyclable cardboard will save an initial 12 tonnes of plastic a year, with this figure set to rise with more grapes expected to make the change later in 2019.

The environmental campaign group A Plastic Planet, has created the World’s first Plastic Free Trust Mark, which will be awarded to food and drink products that are packaged without plastic. 

Iceland’s bananas have become the first product in any major UK supermarket to receive the Plastic Free Trust Mark.

Morrison’s in turn have removed the plastic sleeve from its British-grown cucumbers, which is expected to remove 16 million plastic sleeves each year. This is being done despite the reduction in its shelf life by 2 days.

On the brand side, ethical chocolate brand Divine’s chocolate bars have wrappers that are both FSC certified, meaning that they are made from sustainably-sourced paper, and are also recyclable. This is not usually the case for the most popular chocolate bars int he market, which usually have chocolate bars wrappers that contain polypropylene plastics and therefore cannot currently be recycled in the local council’s household recycling scheme.

One way to replace single use water bottles and cups in the near future could be through innovation, such as the edible water bottle Ooho! (pictured below). This is a spherical packaging made of seaweed, entirely natural and biodegradable.

Other examples from brands around the world include the stainless steel milk bottle by Indian brand Vedic. The containers are tamper-proof and reusable.

Carlsberg is another example as they have recently introduced their new Snap Pack, which reduces plastic usage through innovative glue technology (and removal of the plastic rings).

Meanwhile, BrewDog has moved towards fully recyclable boxes for their beer…

Although for a really innovative example, look no further than Florida-based Saltwater Brewery. Their eco-friendly E6PR™(Eco Six-Pack Ring) is made from compostable organic materials, meaning that should it be ingested by wildlife, it will not cause harm.

Thankfully over 100 companies in the UK have agreed to sign the UK Plastics Pact to ditch unnecessary and problematic single-use packaging by 2025. The list of companies involved includes Unilever, P&G, Tesco, Lidl amongst others. Below are some of their targets and a video on the topic.

On a final note, The Grocer magazine has imagined (with the help of media agency Starcom), what a plastic-free future could potentially look like for some iconic brands (for The Grocer article which requires subscription – click here) – here are their creative examples…

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