This month Plastic Free July's "Choose to Refuse' campaign highlights the difficulties cutting out single use plastic from our our daily consumption as 2018 has seen a heightened awareness of the excess plastic filling our oceans, polluting water and threatening wild life.
The current food supply chain is literally saturated with plastic. Fruit, vegetables, dairy and indeed most foods are protected with layers of plastic. Most of which we have to throw away at home, If sustainable fashion likes to discuss a circular economy, then our plastics consumption as a by-product of food waste, is clearly short-circuiting. Zero Green a shop in Bristol aims to change this with a 100% no plastic policy. This grocery store asks shoppers to bring their own containers, jars or cloth bags to the shop, weigh then fill them, weigh them again and pay at the till. Not only is the consumer reconnected in with the old fashioned model of grocery shopping by deciding to carry containers to the shop, they have also actively reduced single use plastic consumption.
With 99.75% of plastic coffee cups not being recycled, reusable cups are clearly not the solution. At the University of Winchester, they have recently replaced the 25p reduction on reusable cups with a 25p penalty if you buy coffee with their cups. The prices haven't changed, but perception has: with penalty instead of reward reducing waste by 34,000 across the campus in one year.
UK consumers go through an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, according to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) but more than three billion are incinerated, sent to landfill or left to pollute our streets, countryside and marine environment.
To tackle this the government has confirmed it will introduce a deposit return scheme in England for single use drinks containers (whether plastic, glass or metal), subject to consultation later this year. The consultation will look at the details of how such a scheme would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates. They are also in talks wit the the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about the scope for working together on this.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove, said: "We can be in no doubt that plastic is wreaking havoc on our marine environment – killing dolphins, choking turtles and degrading our most precious habitats. It is absolutely vital we act now to tackle this threat and curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled. We have already banned harmful microbeads and cut plastic bag use, and now we want to take action on plastic bottles to help clean up our oceans."
As with food, so with fashion, as Dr Lisa Cameron MP Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Textiles and Fashion discussed for a recent Vogue article by Tamsin Blanchard on the issues with microfibres: “The Blue Planet effect is sweeping across Westminster and it’s time for the fashion industry to take a grip of this movement. The campaign by the ethical cosmetic sector was strong [against microbeads], and if we can gather a similar momentum within the textiles and fashion industries then the government will act: there needs to be a strong policy agenda on the use of microfibres.”.
Fashion Roundtable's Sustainable Fashion Expert Anna Fitzpatrick is working on our policy paper around this issue and we are meeting with DEFRA to discuss these topics later this month, more information on that soon. To have your say, please take our sustainable fashion survey here.