Dozens of companies have signed up to efforts to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastic packaging by 2025, it has been announced.
Under the “UK Plastics Pact”, the businesses have also agreed targets to make 100% of their plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable and to ensure 70% is effectively recycled or composted.
The 42 firms, which include major food and drink brands, supermarkets, manufacturers, retailers and plastic re-processors, will also ensure that there is an average 30% recycled content across plastic packaging by 2025.
The announcement of the pact comes amid widespread concern over the problem of plastic waste polluting the countryside and the world’s oceans where it can harm wildlife and enter the food chain.
Waste reduction body Wrap, which is leading the UK Plastics Pact, said the businesses involved are responsible for more than 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold through British supermarkets.
In addition, 15 other organisations, including the British Retail Consortium and the Food and Drink Federation, have signed up to the targets.
They will aim to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use plastic packaging through redesign, innovation or through delivering products in reusable containers by 2025.
The pact is the first of its kind in the world, and will be replicated in other countries as part of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s “new plastics economy” initiative, Wrap said.
The move has been welcomed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who in recent months has announced plans to provide incentives to recycle plastic bottles, while plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds could be banned.
He said: “Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realised if government, businesses and the public work together.
“Industry action can prevent excess plastic reaching our supermarket shelves in the first place.”
Wrap’s chief executive, Marcus Gover, said: “Together, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink and reshape the future of plastic so that we retain its value, and curtail the damage plastic waste wreaks on our planet.
“This requires a wholescale transformation of the plastics system and can only be achieved by bringing together all links in the chain under a shared commitment to act.
“That is what makes the UK Plastics Pact unique.
“It unites every body, business and organisation with a will to act on plastic pollution. We will never have a better time to act, and together we can.”
The pact aims to reduce the total amount of plastic packaging and help build a stronger recycling system, making sure packaging can be effectively recycled and made into new products.
Sian Sutherland, co-founder of environmental campaign A Plastic Planet which is calling for plastic-free supermarket aisles, the launch of the pact was a “huge step forward in the fight to end the scourge of plastic pollution”.
But she said recycling was of limited value as most plastic could only be recycled a few times before becoming unusable and there was a need to slow down the production of plastic, for example ending its use to package food and drink.
“We have to turn off the plastic tap”, she said, and warned that seven years was too long to wait to do something about the plastic crisis.