Recycle Week slammed as ‘greenwashing’ as MPs call for more sweeping single-use plastic bans

City to Sea is criticising the UK-Government-funded ‘Recycle Week’ for choosing brands such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo as sponsors. In related news, dozens of MPs are calling on Liz Truss to deliver previous Tory plans for single-use plastic bans.

Recycle Week slammed as ‘greenwashing’ as MPs call for more sweeping single-use plastic bans

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The ‘Recycle Week’ campaign officially began today (17 October). It was originally meant to take place in September but was postponed due to the period of national mourning following the Queen’s death.

Spearheaded by Recycle Now, a public-facing campaign from Government-backed WRAP, the idea of the week is to encourage people to “recycle more of the right things, more often”. Brands often use the week as a launchpad for new, easier-to-recycle packaging.

City to Sea, the environmental not-for-profit perhaps best known for its water refill scheme, has slammed the decision to allow companies to sponsor this year’s week without tighter requirements on their own packaging. Sponsoring the event are Coca-Cola Great Britain, Ocado, Danone, McDonald’s UK, Innocent Drinks, Arla, Britvic and PepsiCo. Biffa is the official waste management partner. Other sponsors include the Natural Source Waters Association and British Soft Drinks Association.

Globally and in the UK, Cocoa-Cola and PepsiCo in particular have been accused by environmental NGOs of being among the most-littered brands, City to Sea is highlighting.

“To be abundantly clear, it’s transparently nonsense to have the world’s biggest plastic polluters as sponsors of recycling week; this is greenwashing the dirties of business models, nothing more and nothing less,” said City to Sea’s policy manager Steve Hynd.

The organisation is also taking issue with the fact that the Government runs an awareness week on recycling, but nothing similar on refill or other ways of simply avoiding plastic in the first instance. It has pointed to research indicating that only 9% of all plastic ever produced is estimated to have been recycled, partly due to poor collection and processing infrastructure in much of the world.

Research published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in late 2022 revealed that refillable packaging accounted for just 2% of the products sold by the world’s biggest consumer goods firms.

Responding to City to Sea’s comments, a WRAP spokesperson told edie: “While recycling is important, it is only part of the solution to addressing the plastic waste crisis. We also need to limit plastic where it makes sense. This is why removal, reduction, replacement and reuse and refill are all part of The UK Plastics Pact’s focus.

“WRAP is very careful about who it works with, and who sponsors its activities, to avoid greenwashing. WRAP only works with businesses that can demonstrate that they are actively working to limit the environmental impact of their products and services.”

‘Plastic Crackdown’

In related news, more than 20 MPs have signed an open letter calling on Prime Minister Liz Truss to bring forward new bans on certain single-use-plastic items.

The UK has already banned items such as drinks stirrers, straws and cotton buds. Further bans, including one on sauce sachets, were planned under her predecessor Boris Johnson but, like much policymaking on waste and resource management, have seen progress stalled.

Spearheaded by the campaign group A Plastic Planet and posted in The Independent, the letter calls on the UK to ban the use of single-use plastic sachets, bags and fruit and vegetable packaging. More must also be done, the letter argues, to tackle drinks bottles and plastic bags. It states that the UK must reduce single-use plastic use this decade to meet its 2042 goal of elimination.

The letter also urges the Government to pick up the broader Resources and Waste Strategy, bringing forth new responsibilities for the manufacturers of other hard-to-recycle items such as mattresses and clothes.  These recommendations are based on a new roadmap on reducing, refilling and replacing, published by A Plastic Planet earlier this month. The NGO argues that the changes it is calling for would have broad support from the general public in the UK.

Signing the letter are more than 20 MPs and Lords. There is cross-party representation including the DUP, SNP, Lib Dems, Labour and Conservatives.

“Now is the time for Liz Truss to reset the government’s fortunes by showing real global leadership on plastic,”  said A Plastic Planet’s co-founder Sian Sutherland.

“We need a comprehensive policy with teeth that sets the UK ahead as discussions commence on the UN Global Plastics Treaty. Right now there is a vacuum of intent with England lagging far behind the EU.

“Industry needs certainty so they can lead the change and only the government can give this certainty through fast legislation. Where viable alternatives exist, needless plastic products must be banned and innovations incentivised until all single-use plastics are replaced.”

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