Editor's Comment: Oh dear, Defra is still obsessed with plastic bags

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The coalition has surprised with the scale, breadth, speed and, though some may not agree, the vision of its reforms.

The most notable exception I’ve seen is surely Caroline Spelman’s Department for environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Its record on rubbish is a case in point. It’s rubbish.

As we report, next week’s review of waste policy has not only been painfully slow in coming; it’s expected to be every bit as shallow as the reactive and kneejerk reforms under the previous lot.

So, once again, the serious issues surrounding waste will be ignored in favour of crowd-pleasing calls for retailers to reduce their use of plastic bags; and vague advice around councils resuming weekly refuse collections.

It’s a big shame, because the industry has made major strides in this area. As well as individual initiatives such as CCE’s £15m joint venture with ECO Plastics, the BRC’s easy-to-follow recycling label has been signed up to by more than 115 retailers, wholesalers and suppliers, including the big four and most of the major fmcgs (though Procter & Gamble and Unilever are notable and disappointing absentees).

Indeed, talking to Friends of the Earth this week, it showed how much progress has been made that it lavished praise on retailers and suppliers while attacking the government over its leaden-footed and lacklustre approach and the lack of vision and guidance.

Without local councils operating within a nationwide recycling infrastructure, however, recycling rates will remain low. Or to put it another way, when a shopper who invariably spends no more than five seconds examining an item before buying it reads on the label that he needs to “check local recycling”, or worse, that the item is “not currently recycled”, what’s he going to do?

The answer is obvious: throw the item in the general refuse bin.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Wrong again. The Waste Review contains no policy on plastic bag reduction.

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  • Sadly the Government will always opt for policies that gets good PR rather than focus on the real issues and recognise the great efforts the food industry has made in reducing packaging.
    However, one problem is that retailers still try to encourage consumers to over purchase with BOGOFs and similar incentives.
    Given that (according to WRAP) we throw away 25% of our shopping bag contents, I think there are more important issues than the bag itself, which has gone down in terms of consumption.

    Chris Arnold, author Ethical Marketing & Then New Consumer and founder Creative Orchestra.

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