England Declares War on Plastic Trash

In brilliant news for the environment, Water UK has announced that by 2021 consumers will be able to refill their water bottles free of charge in thousands of shops, cafes, businesses and water fountains in every English town and city.

Shops and cafes are already required to offer free water in England, Scotland and Wales but the new network will provide both a sticker in the window of a business and location points on an app.

This follows an announcement by the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, that a bottle-refill plan where businesses make tap water available to the public will begin next month in five areas of the city. If the plan is successful, it will expand to cover the entire city by the summer. At the same time, 20 new drinking fountains will be set up across London.

Under Khan’s proposed plan, plastic bottles, cups and silverware will also no longer be available at City Hall, the headquarters of the Greater London Authority.

In yet another move to get rid of plastic, earlier this month UK supermarket chain Iceland announced that they will go plastic-free by 2023. The company will be the first major retailer to eliminate plastic packaging for its own brand products.

Iceland managing director, Richard Walker, said: “The world has woken up to the scourge of plastics. A truckload is entering our oceans every minute, causing untold damage to our marine environment and ultimately humanity – since we all depend on the oceans for our survival.”

Blue-Planet-II

Photo Credit: Screenshot from YouTube video

One reason the British are taking action on plastic pollution is David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet II,” a seven-part documentary about our oceans. The beautifully shot series, which was the most popular TV program in Britain last year, examines the catastrophic impact of plastic waste on the world’s oceans. By directly addressing issues like plastic pollution and climate change, the program brought their reality home to millions of BBC viewers.

As a result, several campaigns to reduce marine plastic pollution sprang up, and Michael Gove, Britain’s Environment Secretary, said he was “haunted” by “Blue Planet II” and his department was looking into various ways to discourage plastic bottle use.

This is an urgent situation. The Guardian reports that, “A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.”

Less than half of the plastic bottles purchased in 2016 were recycled and only 7 percent of those were turned into new bottles. Most ended up in landfills or in the ocean.

According to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, between 5 million and 13 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year and may be ingested by fish, sea birds and other organisms.

With the introduction of free water refill points and fountains for all, England is taking the lead on getting rid of plastic bottles. But that’s not the only plastic product that’s under scrutiny. 

Earlier this month, the U.K. government’s ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads went into effect.

These are tiny plastic beads found in toothpaste, face wash and other cosmetic products. They are so small that once they are rinsed down the drain, they remain unfiltered in wastewater treatment and eventually end up in the ocean, to be consumed by sea animals.

Thérèse Coffey, the U.K. Environment Minister, called the “world-leading” ban an “important milestone” in a statement.

“Microbeads are entirely unnecessary when there are so many natural alternatives available,” Coffey said.

The U.K. ban follows similar legislation which came into effect in Canada on January 1. The U.S. has a phase-out plan, begun in 2015, while other countries including New Zealand, India and Taiwan are working on banning microbeads.

Bans on plastic in the form of bags are in place in numerous locations worldwide. In Ireland, a steep fee introduced in 2003 led to consumers using reusable cloth totes almost exclusively. China, Australia, South Africa, Switzerland are a few of the nations that have followed suit. In the U.S. several cities had adopted bans, but there is no national ban.

Congratulations to England and to the rest of the U.K. for their policies on water bottles, plastic packaging and plastic microbeads. 

As Attenborough, ever optimistic, says about the solution to the plastic problem: “If we are clever enough to be able to invent it, surely we should be clever enough to be able to think of ways of destroying it.”

 

Photo Credit: thinkstock

84 comments

Marie W
Marie W4 months ago

thanks

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Claire Jeffrey
Claire Jeffrey8 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M9 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M9 months ago

Tfs

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KimJ M
KimJ M9 months ago

Tfs

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John W
John W9 months ago

This is good news

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John B
John B9 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Sonia M
Sonia M10 months ago

Good news, thanks for sharing.

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Vincent T
Past Member 10 months ago

Good news. Thanks.

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FOTEINI c
foteini chormpou10 months ago

thank god! somebody woke up!

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