Innovate Blog
Government respond to plastic waste with enquiry into single-use foodservice packaging

Monday December 4, 2017

Ask the Expert: Jo Gilroy (Head of Sustainability).

We asked our Sustainability expert ‘Why is it important for the catering and hospitality industry to develop and improve recycling habits?’

And here’s what she told us…

Sustainability Expert - Jo Gilroy Twitter - @JoannaGilroy

Sustainability Expert – Jo Gilroy Twitter – @JoannaGilroy

It is widely understood amongst global communities that the issue of plastic in our oceans is our most pressing environmental concern.  In response, international governments and organisations have either been discussing or self-imposing a ban on single use plastic packaging.

In the United Kingdom, SKY has been leading this debate with their ‘Ocean Rescue’ campaign and a public commitment to be plastic-free by 2020.  Over the last few months, we have seen several our customers self-impose either a ban on certain types of single-use plastic (like straws) or make a pledge to become plastic-free.

In the news last week, the government’s response to growing international pressure to take action has been to launch a new enquiry into single use plastics.  The move, dubbed the “fish and chips tax” by the Foodservice Packaging Association (FPA), will likely begin in the new year and will take into account the findings of the environment department’s investigation on reducing the disposal of takeaway drinks containers through measures such as a deposit return scheme.

The government is calling for evidence on how taxes and other charges imposed on single use plastics might reduce the environmental impact on marine environments. The plastic bag tax, introduced in England in 2015, reduced usage by 85 percent within 6 months. The government is looking to replicate this success with taxation on other single-use plastic items.

It is important for us, and our customers, to realise that this new enquiry is looking at all single use plastics, not just food service packaging. Items such as chocolate bar wrappers, shampoo bottles, cleaning chemical containers will also eventually be targeted.  However, stage one will look at foodservice packaging.

It is my professional opinion, that any tax or levy will unlikely fix the problem of plastic waste in our environment.  It is highly likely that a tax will simply be added on to VAT, and the money directed towards the treasury rather than being invested in recycling infrastructure so sorely needed.  Consequently, such a tax will only impact on the poorest members of our society.

In response to the government’s threat, Martin Kersh, executive director of the FPA, commented on the association’s disappointment with the treasury for not consulting the industry: “Had they done so they would be aware the packaging industry and the major brands are seeking a solution for all consumption on the go, which offers a longer a term solution rather than the government singling out individual items.”

It has never been more important for businesses in the catering and hospitality industry to develop or improve their recycling habits – to demonstrate that we can make a difference on waste without an imposed ban or tax. At Bunzl Catering Supplies, we support our customers by helping them to consolidate their product material types – either into recyclable material or compostable material, but not both together. We also make our customers aware of the need to have a clearly marked recyclables bin, and to encourage them to talk to their waste management provider.

Check out our Sustainable Future 2017 e-brochure and get in touch to find out how we might work together to support your foodservice business.

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