The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has launched an inquiry into the potential damage being done to the environment by disposable drinks packaging, focussing on the impact of plastic bottles and coffee cups.
The inquiry will look at what actions are being undertaken by industry and Government to reduce waste generated by coffee cups and plastic bottles, and investigate possible solutions.
It will ask what initiatives could be utilised to reduce coffee cup and plastic bottle waste or to lessen the impact of this waste? In particular, what are the opportunities and risks associated with incentives and charges – including deposit return schemes.
EAC – “Researchers fear that by 2050 plastic in the oceans could outweigh fish.”
It will also welcome submissions on the impact of waste from coffee cups and plastic bottles, the challenges of recycling these products and what actions are being untaken by industry to reduce waste generated by coffee cups and plastic bottles.
According to the Committee, only 23% of the 2.2m tonnes of plastic used in the UK in 2014 was recycled.
“This leaves plastic to enter our oceans, mainly in the form of bags, food and drink containers, and fishing equipment,” it says. “Researchers fear that by 2050 plastic in the oceans could outweigh fish.”
Plastic Bottles & Paper Cups
Only around half of the 35m plastic bottles sold in Britain every day are currently collected for recycling, the EAC says. “And every day around 7m cardboard coffee cups are thrown away, but only 1 in 400 are recycled, leaving over 6.98m going to landfill or ending up in the environment.”
To make coffee cups waterproof the card must be fused with polyethylene, a material that cannot be separated out again in standard UK recycling mills. This coating makes both composting and recycling of paper cups uncommon.
There are only two sites in the UK that have the capacity to separate the plastic film from the paper, allowing recovery and recycling into new paper products.
Successive Governments have put regulations in place to reduce waste and to increase recycling. Similarly, the industry has been taking voluntary action to try to increase their recycling rates and exploring recyclable alternatives to coffee cups, with the creation of stakeholder groups such as the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group.
The inquiry is open and invites submissions on plastic bottles and coffee cups and how the committee can help increase recycling and reduce the amount of disposable packaging ending up in landfill or the environment.