Polystyrene Containers Next Target for Action

Published on: 26 Aug 2016

After the successful introduction of the carrier bag charge, a call has come to ban polystyrene fast food containers.

The Marine Conservation Society is asking the Welsh Government to implement a ban on these harmful containers.

Plastic Bag Success

Plastic BagsThe introduction of a 5p charge for plastic bags in the UK has led to massive results, with 6 billion fewer bags now in use. The idea was originally adopted in Wales in 2011 when the free bags were banned, forcing bag use to drop by 71% by 2014. The charge also raised £22 million for charities during that time.

With the followed success in the UK this year, the reduction in usage is enormous. The UK government released figures which suggest the amount of bags now no longer in use equates to “the weight of roughly 300 blue whales, 300,000 sea turtles or three million pelicans.”

Northern Ireland had introduced the 5p charge in 2013, while Scotland began it in 2014, causing an 80% reduction in use.

On the back of this success, Gill Bell of the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) is now calling for Wales to ban polystyrene packaging and ensure that the food industry is part of the ecological effort.

Marine Dangers

The polystyrene packaging can be particularly damaging for marine life, as it breaks down into small fragments which then release toxic chemicals into the water. Not only this, but they also attract other toxic chemicals to their surface, making them a double threat.

More than 100 cities in North America and Europe have already put a ban on this type of packaging, and it might not be long before the cause is picked up elsewhere. Gill Bell is not content with simply stopping there but would prefer a “ban on all single use fast food wrappers made from non-compostable material”. This would be a huge win for the environment, preventing further damage from the fast food industry.

“Around eight million tonnes of plastic makes its way into oceans each year, posing a serious threat to our natural and marine environment – experts estimate that plastic is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds,” says a statement from the UK government.

Polystyrene PackagingThe polystyrene issue is particularly felt on the coastline, which Wales has much of, where chip shops are notorious for serving curry sauce and kebab shops serve whole takeaways in polystyrene. This packaging may not be disposed of properly, and even when it is, it can still be damaging.

Consumer habits are certainly changing in light of the 5p bag charge, and now could be the perfect time to change the way things are packaged as much as possible. So long as the alternatives suggested are better for the environment, this could be a great result for the country as a whole.

In light of the way Wales pioneered the bag charge, it is thought that the polystyrene issue could be tackled in a similar way. Once it is shown to have real results, the rest of the UK will follow suit and introduce the same legislation.

Keeping the UK Safe

If you are working in the research and development sector of the food industry, now could be a very good time to start working towards packaging alternatives. Consumers love to read about green packaging and could be persuaded to change their buying habits as a result. This is a great time for innovation. If you want to find a position where this may be possible, be sure to check out Your Food Job to see what is on offer.