Alternatives to plastic may be worse for the environment

A new report from Green Alliance has warned that knee-jerk moves to remove plastic packaging could actually mean adopting solutions that are worse for the environment.

Titled, Plastic Promises: what the industry is really doing about packaging, the report is based on anonymous interviews with representatives of five UK supermarkets as well as other food industry figures. It expresses concerns about ‘greenwashing’ and the rush to adopt alternative options without giving due consideration to their environmental impact.

One interviewee said, “The past year has just really pissed me off no end with companies coming out and boasting about not using plastic, even when they’re in single-use glass, and their carbon emissions are going to be off the scale.” Yet, despite this the report says the overall amount of plastic on the shelf has not altered significantly.

Green Alliance spokeswoman Libby Peake told BBC News, “A lot of shops are selling packaging described as biodegradable or compostable. In fact, the items might only be composted in an industrial composter – and, even then, some items might not be fully digested.”

Andrew Opie, from the British Retail Consortium, added, “Plastic remains the most effective material in many circumstances – for example cucumbers wrapped in plastic last 14 days longer, reducing food waste. A coherent waste and resources strategy is one that prioritises reducing the environmental impact of the things we buy, not simply reducing plastic use.”

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