Protecting the Planet... Updates and Extra notes... By weekly topics...

The entries are updates for the topic(s) for each week. They are arranged in chronological order, with oldest dates first.

Week 3. Plastics: origins and importance, petro-chemical industry. Damage caused by (single-use) plastic. Micro-plastic.

Dealing with the damage: waste, recycling, re-using.

Return to home page

 For related web page go to: protecting13 


Sep 2017. Sea salt has microplastics in it:  The most common type of plastic they found was polyethylene terephthalate, the material used to make plastic bottles. The health impact of ingesting plastic is not known. Scientists have struggled to research the impact of plastic on the human body, because they cannot find a control group of humans who have not been exposed.

26th January 2018. Damian Carrington. Plastic has been found to cause disease in coral reefs. 89% of the corals examined that were fouled by plastic were found to be diseased. Scientists examined 125,000 corals across the Asia-Pacific region. At least 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the ocean every year. Corals are not only home to a diverse range of life, but they are vital for at least 275 million people who depend on them for food, coastal protection from storms, and income from tourism. Plastic was found on a third of the reefs examined between 2011 and 2014. They did not assess microplastics... Diseases found include: skeletal eroding band disease, white syndromes and black band disease. These diseases spread across a colony once there is infection. Plastic cuts the living creatures in the coral, and blocks out sunlight. Plastic pollution is estimated as likely to increase to 16bn pieces by 2025 (an increase of 40%) unless action is taken. Repeated bleaching is now the ‘new normal’ according to Prof Terry Hughes of James Cook University’s centre for coral reef studies.

June 2018. From Global Citizen.  (Seneo Mwamba)

1. Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide.

2. In some parts of the world, using plastic is already illegal.

3. 73% of beach litter worldwide is plastic. 

4. A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute.

5. Worldwide, about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute.

6. 90% of plastic polluting our oceans is carried by just 10 rivers.

7. Plastic is killing more than 1.1 million seabirds and animals every year.

8. The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year.

9.  The average time that a plastic bag is used for is … 12 minutes. (Then it takes up to a thousand years to decompose!)

10. Over the past 50 years, world plastic production has doubled.


Aug 30th 2018, from CIEL – Centre for International Environmental Law:

Sign the petition to your government, and all Parties to the Basel Convention, to vote for Norway’s Proposals to amend Annexes II, VIII and IX to the Basel Convention.

14th Sep 2018, Daniel Boffey: a bicycle path has been made of recycled plastic.

In the Netherlands a 30-metre path made from 218,000 recycled plastic cups has opened in Zwolle (in the north-east) as part of a trial. It is expected to be three times as durable as asphalt. The venture has been carried out by engineers KWS, Total (oil and gas), and Wavin (pipemaker). Other places including Rotterdam may take up the technology. The path is made in prefabricated sections which are light and hollow, and easy to transport; cables and pipes can easily be fitted inside and it is designed to drain off rainwater. It is seen as sustainable...

Asphalt is responsible for 1.5m tonnes of CO2 emissions a year, which is 2% of global road transport emissions.

The EU has proposed that all plastic should be reusable or recyclable by 2030.  Some opponents argue that wear and run-off will produce microplastic particles.

23rd Oct 2018, microplastics in human stools.

Particles have been found in the stools of eight people from Europe, Japan and Russia. Up to 9 different plastics were found out of 10 varieties tested for. Most common were polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate were the most common. On average, 20 particles per 10g were found. Microplastics are defined as particles of less than 5mm. The authors estimate that more than 50% of the world’s population might have microplastics in their stools.

Tests were carried out by the Environment Agency Austria, led by a medical researcher from University of Vienna.

Previous studies have found microplastics in the gut of fish, and in tap water and in flying insects. In Italy a recent investigation found them in soft drinks. In birds they damage the small intestine, disrupt iron absorption and stress the liver. Nothing is known about the impact on human health.

19th Oct 2018. Sandra Laville. The plastics recycling industry is facing an investigation into suspected widespread abuse and fraud within the export system amid warnings the world is about to close the door on UK packaging waste, the Guardian has learned.

The Environment Agency (EA) has set up a team of investigators, including three retired police officers, in an attempt to deal with complaints that organised criminals and firms are abusing the system.

Six UK exporters of plastic waste have had their licences suspended or cancelled in the last three months, according to EA data. One firm has had 57 containers of plastic waste stopped at UK ports in the last three years due to concerns over contamination of waste.

Allegations that the agency is understood to be investigating include:

Exporters are falsely claiming for tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste which might not exist

UK plastic waste is not being recycled and is being left to leak into rivers and oceans

Illegal shipments of plastic waste are being routed to the Far East via the Netherlands

UK firms with serial offences of shipping contaminated waste are being allowed to continue exporting.

UK households and businesses used 11m tonnes of packaging last year, according to government figures. Two-thirds of our plastic packaging waste is exported by an export industry which was worth more than £50m last year.

The exporters make millions by charging retailers and manufacturers a fluctuating tonnage rate for plastic waste recovery notes – currently £60 a tonne. Retailers buy these plastic export recovery notes – Perns – to satisfy the government they are contributing something to recycling plastic packaging waste. But the system – which was heavily criticised as open to fraud and abuse by the National Audit Office this summer – relies on companies making self declarations about how much packaging they are exporting.

The Guardian understands information has been passed to the EA – the regulators – which shows huge discrepancies between the amount of packaging exports recorded by HM customs, compared to the amount UK exporters claim to have shipped. The data, analysed by the Guardian, reveals British export firms claim to have shipped abroad 35,135 tonnes more plastic than HM Customs has recorded leaving the country.

One source with knowledge of the inquiry said: “In the last few months the customs figures on waste plastic are lower than the figures given to the Environment Agency by the exporters – suggesting more people are shipping stuff they claim is waste plastic in order to get the Pern price. “Perns are running at around £60-70 a tonne, so that encourages all sorts of people to pursue the export market, and the question is whether the enforcement is strong enough to detect whether this is actually plastic waste being shipped out.”

At least 100 containers of plastic waste a day are shipped out from ports including Felixstowe and Southampton to Europe and the Far East. Insiders said EA staff have never visited any of the countries or sites where British waste plastic is exported for recycling.

Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), is one of many individuals who has raised the issue of the discrepancy in figures with the EA. “We have flagged this and they are aware of it,” he said. ‘The agency and others are looking at how to improve enforcement … there is organised crime, and criminal gangs exploit the system, that does go on.”

The ongoing investigation into corruption in the plastics industry comes as the UK seeks new international markets for its plastic waste. In January, China stopped accepting British plastic waste and exports shifted to Malaysia, Vietnam and Poland. But Malaysia and Vietnam have imposed temporary bans on imports and Poland is considering restrictions, a sign that countries are growing more wary amid evidence of high contamination rates.

Figures seen by the Guardian show UK exports to Turkey and the Netherlands soaring as a result. Several insiders told the Guardian the export market – which the UK relies on as it struggles to meet a target to reprocess more than half its plastic waste by 2020 – could dry up within weeks. Phil Conran, director 360 Environmental and chair of the government’s advisory committee on packaging, said: “All these markets are effectively closing the door to the poor quality material and they are increasingly limited in what they will accept of the better quality material. “At the moment material is still being collected and still going somewhere ... but all the sense is that we have reached a tipping point and we simply are struggling to find markets for material that is being collected.”

The new markets have brought more fears of abuse within the system. According to packaging declarations made by companies, the UK exported 27,034 tonnes of waste plastic to Turkey in the first three months of this year compared to 12,022 tonnes in the first three months of 2017. Netherlands exports have risen by nearly 10,000 tonnes in the first six months of this year, compared to the same period in 2016; 38,207 tonnes in 2018 compared to 28,784 in 2016.

The EA has been passed allegations that export firms are using the Netherlands to effectively launder plastic waste – exploiting looser controls over shipments to Europe – before illegally moving it out to other countries in the Far East, where they might struggle to get approval under the UK licence system.

Addie van der Spapen, of Netherlands recycling firm Kunststof Recycling, said the country certainly did not have the capacity to reprocess increased amounts of plastic waste from the UK. “It won’t all get recycled. Europe is getting overflowed with the material from England, they are flooding Europe with their plastic,” he said. The growing market in Turkey is also raising fears that more UK plastic waste will leak into the oceans. One source said: “The concern about Turkey is more whether material is being stored to be recycled later, or not recycled at all and being burnt.”

An inquiry by the National Audit Office [pdf] earlier this year criticised the lack of rigour by the EA and the Government. “The financial incentive for companies to fraudulently claim they have recycled plastic packaging is higher than for any other material,” they said. “There is therefore a risk that some of it is not recycled under equivalent standards to the UK and is instead sent to landfill or contributes to pollution.” Marie Fallon, of the Environment Agency, has confirmed to MPs an intelligence led central investigations team has been set up to tackle corruption and fraud within the export system. Fallon accepted the agency could have done better over the years in tackling abuses. In 2016-17 staff carried out fewer than 40 pc of 346 spot checks on companies it had planned. This year five export firms flagged as red rated for risk are still operating and 33 considered to be of medium risk are also still accredited to export waste.

24th Oct 2018, Sandra Laville, Isle of Man has rid its beaches of plastic.

In 2007 it took people six weekends to clear plastic litter, and they found 30,000 plastic bottles and large pieces of plastic. A charity – Beach Buddies – carries out regular clean-ups. UNESCO has designated it a biosphere region, along with other islands for commitment to protecting the coastal environment and biodiversity. There are 52 UNESCO island and coastal biosphere areas, including Menorca, the Maldives, the Philippines, Mauritius, Jeju in South Korea and Noosa in Australia.

Only 13% of the world’s oceans have avoided the impact of humanity, says Dr Fiona Gell, marine biologist in the Dept for Environment, Food and Agriculture in the Isle of Man government. She is concerned about the decline of sea grass, which has a really high level of carbon storage and is important for juvenile scallops. Environmentalists have overcome the opposition of fishing businesses (king and queen scallops, brown crab, lobster and whelk) but they have now been involved in drawing up the protective marine belt around the island. Now, dredging or trawling for scallops is banned throughout the year except for two weeks before Christmas. They are allowed to trawl for 30 minutes maximum, and regular stock surveys are carried out. The fishermen understand the danger of over-fishing.

There are about 15,000 marine protected areas (MPAs) covering about 7% of the world’s oceans. Half the US’s territorial waters are protected, and other countries such as France, Australia have MPAs. It is important to distinguish different kinds of MPA though, as only ‘fully protected’ or ‘strongly protected’ areas are really effective. A fully protected area can increase the total mass of marine life by more than 400%. This is needed because sea life has been declining – World Wide Fund for Nature estimated in 2015 that the number of fish in the oceans had halved since 1970. Coral reefs are also affected.

70% of the world’s surface is ocean.

There are about 230,000 marine species living in our oceans.

15th Nov 2018. Greenpeace has carried out a survey of supermarkets, ranking them by how much they do about plastics: Best is Iceland, scoring 58% for reducing single-use plastic, 47% for eliminating non-recyclable plastic, 49% for influencing suppliers, and 84% for transparency. Worst is Sainsbury’s, 31%..... 15%....  36%.... 61%....

21st Nov 2018. Dead whale had 1,000 plastic items in its stomach. AP

It was washed up in eastern Indonesia. Plastic included flip-flops, 115 drinking cups according to staff from Wakatobi national park. It was a 9.5 metre sperm whale. The plastic weighed 5.9 kg. Indonesia is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China according to an article in Science (Jan 2018) – it produces 3.2m tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste a year, of which 1.29m tonnes ends up in the ocean.

22nd Nov 2018. Sandra laville. Microplastic comes from tyres and synthetic clothing, according to FoE. Between 9 and 32 thousand tonnes of microplastic enters waterways each year from just four sources: tyre abrasion accounts for 7-19,000 tonnes. Clothing creates up to 2,900 tonnes – two thirds of clothing is made from synthetic material, according to a report by Eunomia. 26,000 tonnes of large plastic waste enters waterways each year. Up to 5,900 tonnes of plastic pellets used in manufacturing, and between 1,400 and 3,700 tonnes of paint are lost to surface waters each year. FoE recommends a standardised test to measure tyre tread abrasion rates, and a car tyre levy to pay for research into solutions and mitigation measures.

28th Nov. 2018, Damian Carrington. Microplastics in the sea.

Toxins from microplastics stop periwinkles from being able to detect crabs that eat them. In Biology Letters, a new study shows damage to a link between predator and prey – previous research had shown mussels were harmed. The periwinkle is a keystone species, it eats algae and is eaten by crabs. Microplastics attract metals and persistent organic pollutants. 

31st Dec 2018. Food waste:

250m meals a year = 100,000 tonnes of food is sent to generate electricity from waste, for anaerobic digestion, or for animal feed – even though it is still edible...

43,000 tonnes of surplus food is redistributed from retailers and food manufacturers.

19th Dec. 2018: government has come up with new rules on waste etc.:


7th March 2019. Damian Carrington. A study in Singapore has shown microplastics can harbour harmful bacteria. A study led by Christian Dunn at Bangor University shows how much microplastic there is in our waterways: they were found in all 10 lakes, rivers and reservoirs studied. In the Tame, (near Manchester) – which is the most contaminated place yet tested in the world, there were more than 1,000 pieces per litre. Even in remote places like Loch Lomond there were two or three pieces per litre. The Thames had about 80 particles per litre, and the Blackwater in Essex had 15. Ullswater has 30, and the Llyn Cefni reservoir on Anglesey had 40. Plastic has been found in Swiss mountains and in the deepest parts of the oceans.


At this late stage, powerful vested interests are fighting to derail the deposit return system and water it down. They want the government to agree to the option of a restricted system, limited to smaller drinks containers of 750ml or less – even though recent research suggests that larger bottles could make up as much as 58% of littered drinks containers.

We must make sure the government does not bow to industry pressure for a restricted system. It would mean that billions of bottles will continue polluting our rivers, beaches, fields, parks and hedgerows for years to come.  And industry would once again be able to avoid taking responsibility for the mess they create.  

Nothing less than an ALL-IN system, that includes drinks containers of ALL sizes and materials, will truly combat the growing problem of litter in our countryside.

13th April 2019. Letters from: Maddy Haughton-Boakes, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Richard Ali, Paper Cup Alliance.

The deposit charge on carrier bags has been shown to work, since these now comprise only 1% of the pollution. There should be a deposit return system for all drinks containers – the producers should be liable for the costs of dealing with packaging.

The polyethylene coating on paper cups can be ‘easily separated from the paper using water. There are five cup recycling plants across the UK that are already doing this and have the capacity to recycle all paper cups in the UK...’ Glasgow, Leeds and Cardiff are showing cup collection initiatives. ‘Used paper cups are accepted at Costa, Nero, Greggs, Starbucks and McDonald’s and there are now 4,500 high-street collection points and over 20 waste management companies supporting paper cup collection schemes.’

17th April 2019. Letter from Michael Stephen, Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association.

There is a way of making plastic more biodegradable, so it decays more quickly and can be recycled into nature by naturally occurring bacteria. Oxo-biodegradation is required by law in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan. It creates no toxicity.

17th April 2019, Jonathan Watts: history of plastic pollution:

A plankton sampling device – collecting pelagic plankton which indicates water quality as well as being a source of food for marine life – has been operating for the past century, and also recorded problems when its work was disrupted by plastic... Strands of fishing twine were first found off the coast of Iceland in 1957, then a plastic bag in 1965. During the three decades from the ‘50s less than 1% of tows were disrupted, by the 1990s it was 2% and now it is between 3% and 4%.

The device was towed at a depth of about 7 metres, which is where many fish and marine mammals are found, and it covered a very wide range of oceans – the worst was the southern North Sea.

Since 2004 it has also been sampling for microplastics and has shown a big rise from 1960 – 1990.

Government cuts in the 1980s nearly led to the project stopping, but scientists kept it going and modernised its procedures.

A proposal from

The Basel Convention is a legally binding agreement on cross-border waste disposal signed by almost every country in the world, including the European Union. With one small tweak, proposed by Norway, countries exporting their plastic rubbish would have to get the prior informed consent of the country receiving it -- so developing countries can keep shiploads of plastic pollution from landing on their shores.

But getting all 190 governments on board by May will be no easy task, especially with plastic industry lobbyists desperate to keep the status quo. That’s why we need this campaign right now.

8th April 2019. (Fiona Harvey) According to the Plastic Rivers report, from Earthwatch Europe and Plastic Oceans UK:

Plastic bottles are the most prevalent form of plastic pollution, followed by food wrappers and then cigarette butts. Plastic bags only comprise 1%, showing the bans etc have had an impact. About 80% of plastic rubbish flows into the oceans from rivers. We need to focus on cleaning up rivers, some say, while we deal with our dependence on throwaway plastic. The report looked at macroplastic in fresh water, and excluded fishing gear (which RSPCA says kills birdlife). It also excluded items from farming and industry, to concentrate on consumers’ contributions. Note that polar bears eat plastic when they scavenge on rubbish dumps – forced to go there when global warming deprives them of food.

8th April 2019 (Severin Carrell, Scotland Editor Guardian) – disposable cups and the ‘latte levy’ (a charge on single-use cups) Vegware has been doing very well from compostable food cups and biodegradable food boxes, but questions have been raised by Scottish Greens about the practicality of composting coffee cups etc: they need to be disposed of in specialist composting plants, or in council food composting bins at home... The CEO of Vegware retorts that there are many other sources of single-use plastic such as sandwich packaging, home takeaway deliveries, lids and stirrers on coffee cups: it would be better to increase the cost of landfill. Supermarkets pay £91.35 a tonne (in Scotland?).High costs would make producers avoid waste.

Vegware is proposing closed loop contracts, where it supplies its products to businesses and then disposes of them. But this only covers Scotland and south-west England. Commercial composting covers only 38% of UK postcodes. FoE Scotland chief executive Richard Dixon suggests a lower ‘latte levy’ for disposable cups.

Greenpeace has carried out a survey of supermarkets, ranking them by how much they do about plastics: Best is Iceland, scoring 58% for reducing single-use plastic, 47% for eliminating non-recyclable plastic, 49% for influencing suppliers, and 84% for transparency. Worst is Sainsbury’s, 31%..... 15%....  36%.... 61%....

April 2019: Global Citizen: UN Global Goals.

Plastic waste is a scourge on the natural environment, and innovation is absolutely key when it comes to ensuring we dispose of our waste sustainably. The UN’s Global Goals include calls to protect life on land and life below water (Goal No. 14 and 15), and to create cities and communities that are sustainable (Goal No.11). Join the movement by taking action here to support the Global Goals. 

8th April 2019.Links to Greenpeace action on plastics, especially with reference to Sainsbury’s:

] Greenpeace: Sainsbury's April Fools 
[2] Greenpeace names and shames Sainsbury's in plastic packaging spat
[3] Greenpeace: 'online, offline this April fools is not going well for Sainsbury’s'
[4] Greenpeace: supermarket plastic league table


Largest user of recycled plastic in the food and drink industry in Britain, use around 10,000 tonnes of recycled plastic in their bottles each year. In 2020 will see 4,000 tonnes of plastic removed from supply chain. On average all their bottles contain 25% recycled plastic – aim is 50% to 100%.

limited availability of food-grade quality recycled plastic – hope that the new technology opens up new streams of material. Glaceau smartwater bottles made from !00% recycled plastic. The equivalent of 3,100 tonnes  recycled rather than new (‘virgin’) plastic being used each year .

30 million packs now in paper not plastic. Sprite bottles no longer green, reduced weight of packaging by 27%, finding ways of retrieving marine plastic (from Mediterranean Sea). Clean Tech plant in Lincolnshire is Europe’s largest plastic recycling plant.  

8th April 2019. (Fiona Harvey) According to the Plastic Rivers report, from Earthwatch Europe and Plastic Oceans UK:

Plastic bottles are the most prevalent form of plastic pollution, followed by food wrappers and then cigarette butts. Plastic bags only comprise 1%, showing the bans etc have had an impact. About 80% of plastic rubbish flows into the oceans from rivers. We need to focus on cleaning up rivers, some say, while we deal with our dependence on throwaway plastic. The report looked at macroplastic in fresh water, and excluded fishing gear (which RSPCA says kills birdlife). It also excluded items from farming and industry, to concentrate on consumers’ contributions.

17th April 2019. Letter from Michael Stephen, Oxo-biodegradable Plastics Association.

There is a way of making plastic more biodegradable, so it decays more quickly and can be recycled into nature by naturally occurring bacteria. Oxo-biodegradation is required by law in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan. It creates no toxicity.

17th April 2019, Jonathan Watts: history of plastic pollution:

A plankton sampling device – collecting pelagic plankton which indicates water quality as well as being a source of food for marine life – has been operating for the past century, and also recorded problems when its work was disrupted by plastic... Strands of fishing twine were first found off the coast of Iceland in 1957, then a plastic bag in 1965. During the three decades from the ‘50s less than 1% of tows were disrupted, by the 1990s it was 2% and now it is between 3% and 4%.

The device was towed at a depth of about 7 metres, which is where many fish and marine mammals are found, and it covered a very wide range of oceans – the worst was the southern North Sea.

Since 2004 it has also been sampling for microplastics and has shown a big rise from 1960 – 1990.

Government cuts in the 1980s nearly led to the project stopping, but scientists kept it going and modernised its procedures.

May 2019. - year 2,000 when discussion took place first. Paul Crutzen originated the term. Various measures: CO2 levels, mass extinction, changes we have made to biosphere, ‘stuff’: 30tn tonnes total made/manufactured, plastics. Starting Date mid 20th century. ‘Spike’ between periods: radiation from nuclear testing.  

June 2019: where has all the plastic gone? 

June 2019, plastics, recycling & the global south:

18th June 2019: Example of city where there is maximum recycling: Eskilstuna, Sweden – article by Ammar Kalia

31st Aug. 2019. M & S to remove glitter from Christmas cards, wrapping paper calendars and crackers. Aims to be 100% plastic free by end 2020. Most glitter is made from aluminium bonded to polyethylene terephthalate. Trillions of microplastic particles have been found in the oceans.  M & S have removed 1,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from its business. Waitrose, Tesco and Aldi are taking similar action. (Sarah Butler).

12th Sep. 2019. Microplastics: seem to harm earthworms, as their weight suffers a decrease Worms placed in soil loaded for 30 days with high density polyethylene (HDPE) lost about 3% of their bodyweight, whereas worms in soil without PDPE gained 5%. Lead author: Bas Roots, Anglia Ruskin University, in Environmental Science and Technology. Possible explanation: obstruction or irritation of the digestive tract. The worms (especially rosy-tipped earthworm, Apporectodea rosea) are vital in agriculture.

European studies have found anything between 700 and 4,000 plastic particles per kilogram of soil in some agricultural land.

27th Dec 2019 Italian ski resort (Pejo 3000) in Val di Sole, Trentino has banned plastic after a study found 131m – 162m plastic particles in the surface of one of the largest glaciers in the Italian Alps. The Pejo valley has hydroelectric plants and wood-chip heating from local forestry operations.

Plastic fibres found in creatures at bottom of deepest trench in the ocean.


Jan 2020. From Ecowatch, Olivia Rosane, 20th Jan 2020.

China, the world's No. 1 producer of plastic pollution, announced major plans Sunday to cut back on the sale and production of single-use plastics.

According to the plans put forward by the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, plastic bags will be banned in major cities by the end of 2020 and in smaller cities and towns by 2022, Reuters reported. (Markets selling fresh fruits and vegetables will have until 2025 to phase out the bags).

The commission said it was enacting the changes in order to protect public health and "to build a beautiful China," CNN reported.

The plan targets a variety of plastic types and industries over the next five years, BBC News reported. Other measures include:

A ban on the production and sale of plastic bags less than 0.025 millimeters thick

A ban on single-use straws in restaurants by the end of 2020

A mandate that restaurants reduce the use of plastic items by 30 percent

A mandate that hotels not give out free plastic items after 2025

The plan also calls for the phaseout of plastic takeaway items and shipping packages, Reuters reported. The government also announced Sunday it would work to create recycling programs and promote the use of recycled plastics, according to CNN.

"It's the first time Beijing has recognised single-use plastics as a major problem and specified the urgent necessity to significantly reduce them," Greenpeace tweeted in response to the announcement.

China did ban retailers from giving away free plastic bags in 2008, and also banned the production of ultra-thin bags, BBC News reported.

China is the world's largest manufacturer of plastic, according to CNN. It is also the world's leading producer of plastic waste, according to the University of Oxford's Our World in Data.   It produced 60 million tonnes (approximately 66 million U.S. tons) in 2010, followed by the U.S., which produced 38 million tonnes (approximately 42 U.S. tons). However, on a per capita basis, the average Chinese person discards one-fourth to one-half of the plastic waste discarded by the average U.S. resident.

But because China has a much larger population, the tossing of plastic waste has become a major problem for its infrastructure and environment, overwhelming its landfills and polluting its rivers. China's largest dump is around the size of 100 soccer fields and is already at capacity, 25 years before planned, BBC News reported. And the Yangtze River dumps more plastic into the oceans than any other river in the world, according to CNN.

Around eight million metric tons of plastic enter the world's oceans every year, where they pose a major threat to marine life. China is the leading contributor to the kind of mismanaged plastic waste that is the most likely to end up in the oceans, generating around 28 percent of the world's total, according to Our World in Facts. Asia as a whole is the region that produces the most mismanaged waste, but other countries in the area are also taking steps to combat the problem. Thailand banned plastic bags at major stores this year; Bali in Indonesia banned single-use plastics; and Jakarta, the country's capital, will ban plastic bags by June 2020, BBC News reported.


27th Feb 2020: Note that chemical pollution by industry is not new. Ryan Gilbey (article on film producer Todd Haynes – film ‘Dark Waters’ about a lawyer Rob Bilott, who took on DuPont). ‘For decades, the company had been dumping the unregulated chemical PFOA – which causes birth defects and cancer – in Parkersburg, West Virginia – it poisoned the land and livestock and thousands of people.’ The fight went on for two decades. Film ends with the fact that ‘PFOA, part of the Teflon coating manufactured since the 1950s by DuPont, is now in 99% of life on the planet. It’s a ‘forever chemical’, which means it never leaves the bloodstream.’ 

13th May 2020. Karen McVeigh. Scientists have discovered microplastics in sea spray. Uni of Strathclyde and Observatoire midi-Pyrenees published in Plos One. 359m tonnes of plastic were manufactured in 2018 globally – possibly 10% of it ends up in the sea each year. Globally up to 136,000 tones of microplastic could be being blown ashore each year.

Feb. 2020. National Trust ditches plastic for its membership cards.  5 million members. New cards will use durable paper with water-based coating certified by FSC, produced in a mill powered by its own biomass. Will be recyclable, compostable and cheaper to make! NT also looking at alternatives to plastic  tree guards, drink dispensers to reduce sale of bottled drinks, etc. (PA media)

15th Feb. 2020. Zoe Wood.

A major new online service backed by the world’s biggest brands will deliver products ranging from soft drinks to washing powder and shampoo in refillable containers to your front door.

The Loop, which launches next month, is one of the most ambitious attempts yet to eliminate plastic waste from the weekly shop. It is backed by major consumer goods companies Unilever and PepsiCo, who have created eco-versions of popular brands including Tropicana, Persil and Hellmann’s, to sell via the website.

The service will also include products such as refillable Sure and Dove deodorant sticks, and pots of Signal toothpaste pellets, which do away with the need for plastic tubes.

Supermarkets have already begun to gauge whether shoppers are willing to put in the extra effort required to make refill schemes economical in their stores. Last year Waitrose created dedicated areas in a handful of supermarkets where customers can replenish products ranging from wine and beer to rice and cleaning materials. Sainsbury’s is to sell milk and fizzy drinks in returnable glass bottles this year as part of its plastic reduction drive.

Tesco is eager to shrink its massive plastic footprint and has announced a series of initiatives – including the recent decision to banish shrink-wrapped multipacks of baked beans and soup from its shelves.

Milk & More, the UK’s biggest doorstep delivery company, said that last year 70,000 new customers signed up to have their milk delivered in reusable glass bottles.

Similarly this week Abel & Cole, the organic box delivery firm, said it was rolling out a “club zero” refill scheme, in which store cupboard foods such as lentils and porridge oats are delivered in reusable plastic pots alongside its vegetables and fruit

Loop customers are required to pay refundable deposits linked to the size of each container.

Plastic packaging is a £540bn industry and demand is still rising, particularly in Asia....

22nd May 2020. Damian Carrington. Microplastic in the sea:

The research by Lindeque’s team, published in the journal Environmental Pollution, used nets with mesh sizes of 100 microns (0.1mm), 333 microns and 500 microns. They found 2.5 times more particles in the finest net than in the 333 micron net, which is the kind usually used to filter microplastics, and 10 times more than in the 500 micron net.

The surface trawls off the coast of Plymouth in the UK and the coast of Maine in the US showed similar results, suggesting they are representative of waters near populated land. The particles were dominated by fibres from textiles such as ropes, nets and clothing.

“Using an extrapolation, we suggest microplastic concentrations could exceed 3,700 particles per cubic meter – that’s far more than the number of zooplankton you would find,” Lindeque said. These tiny animals are among the most abundant species on the planet.

The research on microplastics in rivers, published in the journal Global Change Biology, analysed the droppings and regurgitated pellets of white-throated dippers at 15 river sites in south Wales. The scientists said the results were startling.

They found that the birds, which feed on river insects, were eating about 200 pieces of plastic a day. These were mostly fibres, and a quarter were larger than 500 microns.

The team also found that the dippers were feeding thousands of plastic fibres to their nest-bound chicks during their development. Previous research by the scientists had shown that half of the river insects contain microplastic fragments.

Prof Steve Ormerod, of Cardiff University, who led the work...

[see other articles on microplastics at this location]


26th Aug 2020. (See 5. below) proportion of waste incinerated rose from 12.1% in 2008-9, to 43.8% in 2018-19.

Sep 2020: Unearthed.

Greenpeace report on oil industry and plastics: our latest investigation, which was published yesterday on the front page of the New York Times. 

The story is pretty shocking. It’s about Big Oil, plastics and Africa. 

The documents we got hold of show that a trade body that represents the world’s biggest oil and chemical companies have been lobbying the Trump administration during the pandemic to use a trade deal with Kenya to expand the plastics industry across Africa. 

Kenyan environmentalists said the proposals could make Kenya “a dump site for plastic waste”. 

And that’s not all - other documents show that the same lobby group last year - which represent Shell, Exxon and Dow among others - tried to prevent the introduction of new international rules that put limits on the export of plastic waste from rich countries to those in the global south. They say the rules would limit supply for plastic recycling plants. 

Sep. 2020. EEB:

We analysed voluntary commitments from the 10 biggest plastic polluters according to the two most recent Break Free From Plastic brand audits: Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Mars Incorporated, Mondelēz International, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Perfetti Van Melle, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever.

Our analysis shows that companies have widely differing levels of commitment, ranging from near zero (Perfetti Van Melle and Mondelēz International) to more impressive-sounding commitments (Unilever, Danone and Coca-Cola).

However, even the more ambitious commitments are not commensurate with the severity of the plastics pollution crisis. Most come with serious problems around transparency and accountability and are focused on recyclability but without strong support for mandatory collection. Many companies, like Mars Incorporated and Mondelēz International, also seem to be pinning their hopes on chemical (‘advanced’) recycling – a false solution with not only a history of failing expectations, but also severe climate and toxicity consequences.

Companies also consistently fail to meet their own commitments. Coca-Cola, for example, has left behind a 30-year trail of broken promises, ranging from missed targets on recycled content to failed commitments on recovery and the introduction of bio-based plastic. This starkly illustrates that, regardless of how ambitious voluntary commitments sound, most companies regard them as just paper promises, easily ignored after they have generated favourable headlines...

... our analysis found a shocking amount of overlap between corporate membership of the initiatives that claim to solve plastic pollution and trade associations and lobby groups that actively work to undermine ambitious legislation. This reveals how companies use these commitments to appear to be part of the solution, while at the same time they aggressively oppose and lobby to weaken legislation via trade associations, producer responsibility organisations and even fake environmental groups.

[Distracting from legislative measures, delaying, and derailing – the three Ds.]

To highlight a recent example: the plastics industry is trying to undermine the definition of plastic in the implementing guidelines of the Single Use Plastic (SUP) Directive, which could make the Directive meaningless.

Read the full report here:

Nuša Urbančič is campaigns director at the Changing Markets Foundation.

2nd Sep 2020. Jonathan Watts. Microplastic pollution is harming soil-dwelling mites, larvae etc in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Roundworms, springtails etc recycle carbon and nitrogen and break down organic matter into a form that bacteria can consume. 6,300m tonnes of plastic waste has been produced since 1950, and 79% accumulated in landfills or leaked into the environment.

Researchers contaminated patches of land with low-density polyethylene fragments, left it for 287 days, then counted species in contaminated compared to non-contaminated soil.  Orbital mites declined by 15%, fly larvae by 30%, insect larvae 41% and ants 62%. Nematodes declined 20%. Research warns of cascade through food chain, possibly affecting bacteria and fungi.

Sep 2020, Hakai magazine: effects of plastic on fish: The oceans are full of microplastics, yet scientists have a limited understanding of just how these tiny particles impact fish. Part of the issue is that plastic particles in the sea are often covered in microorganisms and chemical pollutants such as oil, and isolating plastic from these contaminants can be difficult.

Now, a systematic review of 46 research projects has assessed the toxicity of pristine plastics on fish, finding that the smallest plastics have the biggest impact, particularly when it comes to behavior and neurological functions.

In the new work, Hugo Jacob and Marc Besson, marine biologists at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Monaco, focused on studies of microplastics and nanoplastics smaller than 0.1 micrometers in size. The scientists analyzed research that examined the impacts of feeding uncontaminated plastic to fish, noting in particular how the plastics affected their biological functions and systems.

They found that the particles adversely impacted a third of the nearly 800 biological outcomes examined, with behavioral, sensory, and neuromuscular functions most severely affected.

Plastic exposure was linked to neurotoxicity and abnormalities in brain development and structure. In studies that looked at larger microparticles, those effects were likely driven by disruptions to the immune system, metabolism, and microbiome. Other studies suggested that plastic particles less than 500 nanometers in size could be small enough to enter the brain and directly initiate such neurological disorders.

(much research looks at plastic beads, and not at other shapes)

Wagner says. He would like to see studies move away from polystyrene and polyethylene and toward other common plastics that pollute the marine environment, like PVC, which is found in everything from pipes to raincoats; PET, which is used in drinking bottles; and polypropylene, which is common in food packaging.

(edie) Sep 2020:     .  The virgin plastics industry is described in the report as a 'bloated behemoth' which is primed for disruption

That is the conclusion of a new report from think tank Carbon Tracker and systems change service provider SYSTEMIQ, entitled: ‘The Future’s Not in Plastics: Why Plastics Demand Won’t Rescue the Oil Sector’.

Published today (4 September), the report highlights how future scenarios used by oil majors like BP and trade bodies like the International Energy Agency (IEA) are still predicting a global growth in oil demand through to 2040, despite trends towards cleaner heating and electric transport, which will accelerate in the coming decades. This is because they rely on a boom in the global demand for plastics. BP sees plastics driving 95% of the sector’s growth within this timeframe.

Oil majors are investing in line with such scenarios, collectively planning to funnel $400bn into new virgin plastics production capacity by the end of 2026, the report states. With this level of financing, global production would increase by 25%.

The publication of the report comes shortly after the Ellen Macarthur Foundation launched a US version of its Plastics Pact, supported by more than 60 organisations including corporates like Mars, Kimberly-Clark, Nestle and Coca-Cola. The Pact’s ambition to create a new circular economy for plastics is crucial, given that recent Foundation-backed research warned that the volume of plastic entering oceans and waterways will triple and the global ocean plastic stock will quadruple by 2040.

In related news, the Alliance to End Plastic Waste this week published its first annual progress report. The report confirms that the 2025 targets for the Alliance are unlocking at least five times the initial $400m investment made by founding members; deliver multiple zero-plastic cities; diverting more millions of tonnes of plastic waste from landfill, incineration and dumping in 100 at-risk cities and supporting more than 100 million people with paid roles in waste management. Sarah George


28th Sep 2020.

A super-enzyme that degrades plastic bottles six times faster than before has been created by scientists and could be used for recycling within a year or two.

The super-enzyme, derived from bacteria that naturally evolved the ability to eat plastic, enables the full recycling of the bottles. Scientists believe combining it with enzymes that break down cotton could also allow mixed-fabric clothing to be recycled. Today, millions of tonnes of such clothing is either dumped in landfill or incinerated.

The new research by scientists at the University of Portsmouth and four US institutions is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers have also been successful in finding bugs that eat other plastics such as polyurethane, which is widely used but rarely recycled. When polyurethane breaks down it can release toxic chemicals that would kill most bacteria, but the bug identified actually uses the material as food to power the process.

1st Oct 2020 Sandra Laville.

Plastic claiming to be biodegradable will have to pass a test to prove it breaks down into a harmless wax which contains no microplastics or nanoplastics in order to make the grade, published by the British Standards Institution.

The benchmark for the new standard was reached by a British company called Polymateria, which has created a formula to transform plastic items such as bottles, cups and film into a sludge at a specific moment in the product’s life.

The biodegradable products created contain a clear recycle-by date, to show consumers that they have a timeframe to dispose of them responsibly in the recycling system before they start breaking down. The bio-transformation chemicals created by Polymateria are added to plastic in the manufacturing stage of an item, with a bespoke element in the formula for each type of plastic item being produced.

Niall Dunne, chief executive of Polymateria, said in tests using the biotransformation formula, polyethylene film fully broke down in 226 days and plastic cups in 336 days.

Currently many plastic products in litter persist in the environment for hundreds of years.

Scott Steedman, director of standards at BSI, said: “Tackling the global challenge of plastic waste requires imagination and innovation. New ideas need agreed, publicly available, independent standards to enable the delivery of trusted solutions by industry.

“PAS 9017 is the first stakeholder consensus on how to measure the biodegradability of polyolefins that will accelerate the verification of technologies for plastic biodegradation.”

The new standard was sponsored by Polymateria, based at Imperial College, London and agreed after independent review and discussions with stakeholders in the industry, the waste and recycling group Wrap, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.



Glitter may add sparkle to the holiday season, but its afterlife is decidedly less shiny.

The festive coating and arts-and-crafts staple is actually another type of microplastic — those pesky plastics five millimeters or less in diameter that end up everywhere from Arctic ice to the bellies of sharks.

"Glitter might look lovely but, because it's plastic, it sticks around long after the sparkle has gone – often in the stomachs of fish and birds," campaigner David Innes told The Guardian in 2019.

That's why three major UK retailers have decided to eliminate glitter from their Christmas merchandise this year. Morrisons, Waitrose and John Lewis have all announced that their store brand holiday products will be glitter free for 2020.

Oct. 2020. Sandra Laville:

Plastic claiming to be biodegradable will have to pass a test to prove it breaks down into a harmless wax which contains no microplastics or nanoplastics in order to make the grade, published by the British Standards Institution. The benchmark for the new standard was reached by a British company called Polymateria, which has created a formula to transform plastic items such as bottles, cups and film into a sludge at a specific moment in the product’s life.

Once the breakdown of the product begins, most items will have decomposed down to carbon dioxide, water and sludge within two years, triggered by sunlight, air and water.

The products that can be transformed include the most common litter items, such as food cartons, food films and bottles.

Dec 2020:

Plastics:  Ecowatch:  (5 points about plastics)

Jan 2021.

Jan. 2021, edie,  especially in relation to plastic.


Oceans: Sep. 2019, from sumofus and earthworks: - 220 million tonnes. That’s the appalling amount of toxic waste that mining companies dump directly into our oceans, rivers and lakes every year.

A Credit Suisse-financed mining company is about to dump 30 million tonnes of toxic heavy metals - Chrome. Nickel. Copper -and chemicals into a beautiful Norwegian protected fjörd -- a natural reserve for many salmon.


Jan 2020. Recycling/reuse: One of UK’s 5 missed environmental targets: EU – 50% of household waste to be recycled or reused by 2020.East Riding (highest) meets 65%, but Newham 17% (lowest). Nationally, recycling rates dropped 2017-18.

Jan. 2020 Labelling not clear. Which analysed 20 common toiletries and found the majority had no recycling information on most of them. Only 6 had accurate and detailed labelling. Majority of consumers said they didn’t know ow to cut back on plastic in the bathroom. Recycling labelling should be mandatory. In 2017 the UK recorded a 45.7% recycling and composting rate. (2016 was 45.2%). EU target is 50%

16th Feb. 2020. Ex-landfill sites now good for wildlife.

Once one of western Europe’s biggest landfill sites, Thurrock Thameside Nature Park, is now a thriving haven for wildlife

valuable home for some of the UK’s rarest inhabitants, including cuckoos, adders, water voles and the extremely rare shrill carder bee.

Many people are unaware of just how valuable scrub is as a habitat. It is one of the most underrated habitats and some of our most iconic British species need scrubland to thrive,

In the mid-1990s there were about 1,500 active landfill sites in the UK. Now there are fewer than 250, largely because taxes were introduced that made sending rubbish to landfill more expensive than incineration.

There are 20,000 old landfill sites in England and 1,315 of them have at least one environmental designation on them, according to analysis of Environment Agency and Natural England data by Dr James Brand from Queen Mary University of London. A significant proportion – 11% – of sites of special scientific interest in England are built at least in part on old landfill.

layer of clay crust just 1.4 metres (4.6ft) thick, which sits on 30 metres of gurgling waste, weighing around 20m tonnes. The only building on site – the visitor centre – is held upright by hydraulic jacks.

Like most landfill sites, this crust is too thin to support trees because their roots would penetrate the black plastic the waste is wrapped in, potentially causing methane and toxic liquids to be released into the environment. This is why wildlife reserves on landfill sites are often left as scrub or grassland.

Mucking Marsh (as it used to be called) landfill belches out enough methane gas to power around 10,500 homes. This potent greenhouse gas is released via a pipeline and then combusted to form CO2 and particulate matter before being released into the atmosphere. Enovert will manage the decaying matter until it stops producing gas, which is expected to happen in 2040. The decay of organic waste on landfills accounts for one third of UK’s methane emissions, so making sure landfills are properly sealed is key to minimising environmental damage.

May 2020. Waste warriors.

26th Aug 2020. (See 5. below) proportion of waste incinerated rose from 12.1% in 2008-9, to 43.8% in 2018-19.

Sep 2020 21 containers of waste returned to Britain from Sri Lanka because contained illegal matter (e.g. hospital waste). A further 242 containers from Britain remain in the port at Colombo (the capital) and at a free trade zone outside the capital – they arrived in 2017 and 2018. The government is taking legal action against the shipper to have them removed.

Oct 2020 Rebecca Smithers: Which analysed 89 best-selling branded groceries and only 34% had recyclable packaging, and 41% had no relevant labelling.

July 2020. Flytipping (Libby Brooks, Scotland). Problem has become worse during pandemic. Is an app for reporting flytipping to councils; ClearWaste. Nearly one in five councils in the UK issue no fines. If it is difficult to use municipal tips (charges and permits, also landfill taxes) then people will fly tip.

7th Oct 2020. Flytipping.

One thing is clear: fly-tipping is a national scourge. Even before Covid-19, it was a major problem for UK councils. Large-scale fly-tipping – defined as the dumping of a lorry-load of rubbish – more than doubled in England between 2012 and 2019. English councils spent £12.8m last year clearing up more than 36,200 large tips. It is believed that organised crime may be behind the surge, with criminals posing as legitimate waste-disposal businesses only to dump the rubbish they collect on private land or public roads.

But Covid-19 turbocharged the problem. Fly-tipping increased by 300% at the start of lockdown, according to the Daily Mail. “It was a perfect storm of people being furloughed, finally getting around to doing DIY jobs they’d been putting off and then finding that recycling centres were closed,” says Richard McIlwain of Keep Britain Tidy. Household goods stores saw a 42% rise in sales in May, while about half of local authorities closed their recycling centres or reduced opening hours, meaning there was nowhere for the public to take their DIY offcuts and empty tins of paint.

... A better solution, of course, would be to nip fly-tipping in the bud. “We need to make it easy for people to do the right thing,” says McIlwain, explaining that some recycling centres will make residents pay to dump materials that are not household waste. “We appreciate that local authorities need to raise money, but they should be properly funded by central government,” he says. “If the system is fully funded, so that recycling centres open seven days a week and accept a variety of materials, you won’t have so many people going on Facebook and hiring dodgy people cheaply.” He also calls for strengthening the waste-carrier licensing process, plus tougher court penalties. “Ninety per cent of fines are less than £1,000 – a day’s pay if you’re running a professional fly-tipping business.”

  Dec 2020:

Plastics:  Ecowatch:  (5 points about plastics)

Jan 2020. Rebecca Smithers reports food waste in UK falling (by 7% per person over past 3 years). But 4.5m tonnes are thrown away annually. Food worth £14bn that could be eaten is wasted.


Jan 2021. Food waste:

March 2021.

The majority of the world is working together to reverse the massive plastic pollution problem. But, the world's leading producer of plastic waste, the U.S., hasn't signed on and isn't following the rules.

In 2019, 187 countries, except for the U.S. and Haiti, voted to amend the 1989 Basel Convention to include plastic waste in the definition of hazardous materials, and to strictly limit how that trash is traded internationally. The binding framework hoped to make globally traded plastic waste more transparent and better regulated. It went into effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

UN officials hoped the agreement would curb ocean plastic within five years. Supporters believed the convention would level the industry's global playing field by allowing developing nations such as Vietnam and Malaysia to refuse low-quality and hard-to-recycle plastics before they were shipped from developed nations, a UN transboundary waste chief told The Guardian.

US produces most plastic but hasn’t signed up. Basel Action Network: exports banned to countries that have signed but US still doing it: new report showed that American exports of plastic scrap to poorer countries have barely changed and that overall exports of scrap plastics even rose.

March 2021.

Tesco has begun rolling out soft plastic recycling points to 171 stores in the South West of England and Wales with plans to roll out to all large stores nationwide. This will be the first time that the UK has had a network of collection points of this size dedicated to the collection of soft plastic. Most councils don’t collect soft plastic from homes for recycling and it therefore often goes to landfill.

The roll out follows an extremely successful 10-store trial where customers responded positively, returning more than 10 times the expected amount of plastic. The material has already been used to produce food-grade packaging for a selection of Tesco cheeses.

The most common items to be returned during the trial were:

See also: Tesco supermarket has launched a trial for an innovative recycling scheme specifically focusing on plastics that can’t be recycled on the kerb. Soft plastics like crisp packets, plastic bags, and pet food pouches generally can’t be recycled by local authorities — blocking efforts to hit 100% recycling rates. But the supermarket has now partnered with Swindon-based recycling specialist Recycling Technologies to help tackle the problem. From this week, according to Tuesday's announcement, Tesco is actively encouraging shoppers to bring their non-recyclable plastics to collection points at 10 stores across Swindon and Bristol. 

And if the trial goes well, the initiative could be rolled out across the whole of the UK. The plan is basically to create a closed loop for plastic production. The soft plastics returned to the store will be converted back into oil by Recycling Technologies, and then that oil can be used in the production of new plastics. According to Sarah Bradbury, Tesco’s director of quality, the technology “could be the final piece of the jigsaw for the UK plastic recycling industry.” Bradbury added that the initiative will help the store reach its target to have all of its packaging 100% recyclable by 2025. 

And environmental campaigners are on board with the initiative too. Paula Chin, WWF UK’s sustainable materials specialist, said: “It’s great to see Tesco running this innovative trial, looking for new ways to make it easier for customers to recycle plastic materials which would usually go in their waste bins.” She added: “While we can all do our bit by reducing the plastic we buy and embracing reusable items, we need producers, businesses, and governments to face their responsibilities too.” 

The stores involved in the trial are: Bristol Lime Trees Road Superstore, Yate Extra, Bristol Brislington Extra, Bristol Staple Hill Metro, Keynsham Superstore, Bristol East Extra, Cirencester Metro — Farrell Close, Cirencester Extra, Swindon Extra, and Tetbury Superstore.

The announcement is a step in the right direction for achieving the goals set out in the UK Plastics Pact — signed by dozens of companies in the UK in April 2018 to help crack down on plastic pollution. Tesco was one of the supermarkets that signed, along with Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and Waitrose. In fact, combined, those that signed the pact are responsible for some 80% of the plastic packing on products sold in UK supermarkets. And one of the four targets outlined in the pact is to make 100% of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable. 

According to the most recent government data, from 2017, the UK recycling rate for waste from households is about 46% — still short of the EU target to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020. For packaging waste specifically, plastic falls far short of most other recyclable materials. In 2017, according to the data, about 46% of plastic packaging was recycled; compared to 71% of metal, 79% of paper, and 67% of glass. 

But while individuals and local authorities can also play their part in making sure we dispose of our waste sustainably, there is also an ongoing call from campaigners for supermarkets and other businesses to take greater responsibility for disposing of the plastic waste they’re putting into the market. Supermarkets in the UK currently pay less towards the proper collection and disposal of plastic waste that in any other country in the EU, according to a 2018 Guardian report. Instead, taxpayers pay 90% of the total cost. The plastic pact, and the actions that are coming as a result, is great — but campaigners have also consistently said that voluntary action isn’t enough, and that we need legal enforcements in place to hold businesses accountable to their pledges. 

Julian Kirby, from Friends of the Earth, said of the pact that it must be “accompanied by government measures to ensure that everyone plays their part and these targets are actually met. 

Extra Notes for Week 3 class:

2018. Book: How to go Plastic Free, Caroline Jones.

Humanity now produces its own weight in plastic every single year. That’s 300 million tons (330 million US tons) – with a shocking 10-20m tons of that ending up in the ocean.

2nd Sep 2020. Soil affected.  damage caused in soil by microplastics (not just ocean): harm to mites, larvae etc, that maintain the fertility of the land. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: more concentration in the soil than in the sea. We have produced 6,300m tonnes of plastic waste since 1950, of which 79% has accumulated in landfills or leaked into the environment.

Research carried out in China: covered land in plastic fragments – orbital mites reduced by 15%, and greater reduction in dipteral larvae (30%). Nematodes (20%) – likely to affect bacteria and fungi, though no effects found in the experiment (?)

Nov 2020. Incineration à CO2.  

Carbon emissions from waste disposal are increasing because of the expansion of energy-from-waste incineration plants, a coalition of campaigners has warned.

By 2030 the government’s push to increase incineration of waste will increase CO2 emissions by 10m tonnes a year, mostly from the burning of plastics, the groups said. They argue that the growth in energy-from-waste incineration means the UK will not be able to meet its commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The coalition...  includes Extinction Rebellion’s zero waste group, Friends of the Earth, the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN), Greenpeace and the MP John Cruddas

26th Jan 2021. Supermarkets survey.

Ten biggest retailers produced 900,000 tonnes of packaging and 2bn plastic bags in 2017 – study by Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency, - The supermarkets sold 2.1bn plastic bags in 2019, including 1.58bn “bags for life” which are intended to be reusable. This equates to almost 57 “bags for life” per UK household in 2019, more than one a week, and is a 65% increase since 2017... The amount of plastic cutlery sold or given away has also risen sharply, from 143m items in 2017 to 195.5m in 2019.

Waitrose was ranked as the leader in plastic reduction... Iceland was bottom. Although the supermarket has reduced the plastic in its own-brand products by 29% since 2017, increases in plastic from branded goods offset its progress.

A Co-op spokesperson said: “We have one of the smallest plastic footprints of any major food retailer and almost half of our packaging uses recycled content. We are committed to eliminating unrecyclable plastic and will make all of our packaging recyclable this year and we continue to rollout compostable carrier bags as an alternative to bags for life.”

13th April 2021. Microplastics in air circulating round the globe.

human pollution has led to a global plastic cycle, akin to natural processes such as the carbon cycle, with plastic moving through the atmosphere, oceans and land... Prof Natalie Mahowald, at Cornell University - published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, - the result of road traffic and winds across oceans and farmland whipping up plastic particles already in the environment (not directly from discarded plastic in towns).

roads were the dominant factor in the western US, linked to about 85% of the microplastics in the air. These are likely to include particles from tyres and brake pads on vehicles, and plastics from litter that had been ground down.

May 2021. UK plastic dumped abroad.

Greenpeace video on Instagram... Quotes Johnson and Gove ‘The UK is a global leader in tackling plastic pollution...’

Less than 10% of plastic recycling is actually recycled in the UK. The rest is sent overseas where it’s often burned or dumped, fuelling health and wildlife emergencies.

Globally, more than 90% of all plastic waste ever produced has not been recycled...