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Creating a circular economy through compostables

MPs and academics lend their support to ambitious targets for moving away from conventional plastics towards compostable alternatives

Letters

Mon 27 Jan 2020 18.08 GMTLast modified on Mon 27 Jan 2020 18.11 GMT

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Binding targets to reduce plastic pollution outlined in the anticipated environment bill are a critical first step in making Britain a global leader. However, there remains an area that must be addressed urgently if we are to move to a truly circular economy.

Film and flexible packaging amount to around 400,000 tonnes of plastic used in the UK per year, comprising 25% of all plastic packaging. However, just 4% is currently recycled and the new recycling strategy does not adequately address this challenge. These materials are extremely difficult to collect and process. Moreover, they often contain food, which makes them impossible to recycle in the plastic waste stream.

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Compostable packaging provides a smart solution for this problem. These materials shift away from the inefficient mechanical recycling stream, into a nature-based solution that can be returned safely to the earth.

By 2023, the UK may have the capacity for nationwide collection of compostable packaging along with organic waste. Therefore, with sufficient education and the right waste management infrastructure, compostable materials could replace a useful proportion of the non-recyclable conventional flexible plastic. Solutions to address the challenge of flexible packaging have already been demonstrated in France and Italy.

Compostable packaging must play an integral role if we are to create a true circular economy and meet our commitments on plastic packaging. We therefore support ambitious targets for moving away from conventional plastics towards compostable solutions. Ben Lake MP Plaid Cymru, Derek Thomas MP Conservative, Matthew Offord MP Conservative, David Simmonds MP Conservative, Christine Jardine MP Liberal Democrats, Wera Hobhouse MP Liberal Democrats, Joan Walmsley MP Liberal Democrats, Alex Sobel MP Labour, Gareth Thomas MP Labour, Chi Onwurah MP Labour, Helen Hayes MP Labour, Jennifer Jones MP Green, Preet Gill MP Labour, Professor James Elliott Department of materials science and metallurgy, University of Cambridge, Michele Miller Centre for Circular Economy, University of Exeter, Dr Peter Luetchford Department of anthropology, University of Sussex, Andy Sweetman Chair, Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association, Jeremy Jacobs Technical director, Renewable Energy Association


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