plastic forks cutlery

Source: Getty

Wrap hopes the move will encourage concerted rather than piecemeal action across the industry

Disposable cutlery, polystyrene packaging and plastic straws are among the plastic products to be voluntarily axed en masse by the food and drink industry, in the most concerted move yet in the war on plastic.

Wrap, in its role overseeing the UK Plastics Pact, today published a list of eight “problematic or unnecessary” single-use plastics that the Pact’s members will be expected to remove from shelves by the end of 2020.

It also published a further list of 19 plastic items that are to be prioritised for action by 2025.

The Pact has faced criticism for being too slow to push plans for co-ordinated action by the industry, with some retailers having months ago identified what they see as the problem plastics.

However, today’s publishing of the list marks a significant step as it will give retailers and suppliers a definitive guide to the products they should get rid of. Wrap hopes it will encourage concerted rather than piecemeal action across the industry.

Other items on the list are cotton buds with plastic stems, plastic stirrers, oxo-degradable PVC packaging and disposal plates and bowls.

Items on the second list include plastic bags, plastic film packaging and fruit & veg net bags.

Wrap also is urging the 76 businesses in the Pact to phase out plastic cups, fruit & veg trays and single-use drinks bottles.

However, the body warned the industry must try to guard against unintended consequences that could contribute more to global warming.

“We know that more people than ever are concerned about the impact of plastics,” said Wrap director Peter Maddox.

“The fundamental way industry can support this public desire is by addressing the issues that lead to plastic packaging being problematic. So for every item of packaging we need to consider whether plastic is the right material choice, or indeed if packaging is required at all. In many cases, plastic may be the best material choice from an environmental perspective. In these cases, we need to ensure that the plastic can be and is recycled. The items listed today are priorities for UK Plastics Pact members, and the onus is on those members to implement changes urgently.”

Today’s move was welcomed by major food companies.

Tesco, which last year named a list of hard-to-recycle materials it would no longer accept from suppliers, including many of those on the new list, said it was crucial others stepped up to the plate.

“We know how concerned our customers are about plastic,” said Tesco’s head of packaging and Plastics Pact advisory group member James Bull.

“That’s why Tesco has been working towards a closed loop system for packaging using as little plastic as possible: where packaging is used, re-used, collected and recycled continuously, so no packaging goes to landfill. The materials we use play a crucial role in helping customers recycle, and preventing plastic from ending up in our oceans and countryside.”

Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury’s brand, said: “As a member of the UK Plastics Pact we are committed to removing and replacing unnecessary plastics. We have made strong progress so far this year, committing to remove 10,000 tonnes of plastic packaging, and are putting plans in place to go further.

“Sainsbury’s has long been at the forefront of environmental issues - as the first major retailer to remove microbeads from own brand products, offer paper-only cotton buds and remove plastic produce bags - and we will continue finding innovative ways to reduce unnecessary plastic.”