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Plastic faces ‘diesel moment’

With a public outcry about plastic pollution and the UK considering new ways of recovering and recycling plastics, one expert says plastic packaging is approaching a point of no return.

With a public outcry about plastic pollution and the UK considering new ways of recovering and recycling plastics, one expert says plastic packaging is approaching a point of no return.

The environmental impact of plastic packaging has been high on the agenda for some time following the revelation that there may be more plastics in the oceans than fish by 2050.

The government has already announced a ban on microplastics in consumer products from 2018 and its plastic bag levy has been a success, with usage falling by 83 per cent.

Return and reward

Environment secretary Michael Gove has now launched a four-week consultation on the potential for rolling out ‘reward and return’ schemes for drinks containers in England, whereby consumers pay a small deposit which can be refunded at a designated deposit station. 

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference on 2 October, Gove said: “We must protect our ocean and marine life from plastic waste if we are to be the first generation to leave our environment in a better state than we found it. That means tackling the rise in plastic bottles entering our waters.”

He added that deposit return schemes had already seen “great success” in other countries such as Denmark, where 90 per cent of returnable cans and bottles find their way back to recycling facilities.

Scotland has already committed to introducing its own scheme, which has been backed by Coca Cola.

‘Diesel moment’

A new report on the chemicals industry from corporate sustainability tracker CDP has shown that nearly eight million tonnes of plastic packaging ends up in the oceans each year. 

The report warns that the chemicals supply chain is heading for its own “diesel moment”, similar to the public and government backlash car manufacturers faced after the ‘dieselgate’ scandal. 

Speaking to news website edie, Carole Ferguson, head of investor research at CDP, said: “The reason I coined the ‘diesel moment’ is because I see a combination of pushback from consumers as much as regulators, in saying this is something that needs to be dealt with. 

“I think it's actually working, so many countries are saying they'll implement a ban. That’s the push back you're going to have to see for companies to take it seriously.”