We agree it is time for a culture change on plastic - British Plastics Federation

Posted On: 
16th March 2018

Following the announcement of a call for evidence on tax changes to reduce single use plastics in the Spring Statement, the BPF Director General agrees that the time has come for Britain to move towards a circular economy.

Credit: 
PA

We have reached a moment where people across the UK are calling for a greener future. The British Plastics Federation shares the government’s ambitions, and wants to lead the way in helping to achieve this noble goal. 

It’s important that UK organisations come together to tackle these issues head on, and demonstrate beyond doubt that Britain can lead when it comes to sustainability. 

As experts on plastic, we are all too familiar with the issue of waste entering our marine environment and for years have been running Operation Clean Sweep in the UK to prevent plastic pellets escaping from manufacturing facilities as well as actively raising awareness of the issue amongst the public. Now, we hope, is a watershed moment that allows all relevant sectors to join forces to take action. 

Plastics form the backbone of our modern society – the material is so versatile it is used to help save lives in hospitals, save fuel by making aircraft lighter, and in food packaging to keep our food fresh for longer. But plastic waste leaking into the environment is an unacceptable situation – and one that is also avoidable. 

All types of plastic can be recycled. It is now our mission in the months and years that follow to help ensure that they are. 
 
This starts from the very moment packaging is designed so that it can be easily recycled at the end of its first use. The journey continues by making sure that we, the consumers who benefit from prolonged shelf lives, in turn prolong plastic’s life by recycling it at home or on-the-go. Used plastic then needs to be sent to more British recycling companies so we no longer export as much as we do today, which involves increasing capacity.
 
This is a journey that requires us all to see the bigger picture.. Plastic is often the material of choice because it is so lightweight and resource efficient – lifecycle analyses that compare other materials show environmental costs can rise four times when you replace plastic with other materials. 

Plastic also uses only 4-6% of total oil and gas production, and is itself a by-product of the refinery process that would otherwise have no productive use. 
Facts such as these about the low carbon footprint of plastic matter – especially in a world that is already seemingly rocked by the effects of climate change. This is an urgent global issue that should never leave our minds. 

But it is nonetheless clear to everyone that plastic litter (or litter of any type for that matter) found on beaches, and in our towns and cities, is not a state of affairs we should accept. This call from government is a chance for everyone to come together to ensure our country is kept clean. Brands and retailers are already working together on the BPF’s marine litter platform, bringing together experts in waste management, behaviour change and litter reduction. 

In the end this will mean nothing short of a change of culture – of what we understand as being environmentally responsible citizens. Everyone, from young people to retailers, producers and beyond, will need to treat plastic as the valuable resource it is, to move Britain towards a fully circular economy. The British Plastics Federation thinks it is about time too.