Local Transition Groups and Plastic Waste – Review of Activities 2018-19

Extract from Great Bottle Top Chain – 2015 (source: Rame Peninsula Beach Care in collaboration with other groups across the South West)

Over the past twelve months Transition Falmouth has been working closely with Transition Truro and other groups to raise awareness of the plastic pollution crisis, and on solutions required to tackle it. The following is a list of activities undertaken:

Following the Sustainable Packaging Event organised by Tevi (https://tevi.co.uk/) last year a Single-Use Compostable Cup Challenge was submitted to draw attention to the difficulties faced by consumers and businesses alike regarding the sustainable disposal of these and other single-use cups through composting and/or recycling.

The complexities around this whole subject are now increasingly well documented, and have been the subject of comment by the Chairman of the recent EFRA Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into Plastic Packaging as follows:

“My Committee is also concerned that compostable plastics have been introduced without the right infrastructure or consumer understanding about how to dispose of them. Fundamentally, substitution is not the answer, and we need to look at ways to cut down on single use packaging”

Also the CEO (Tom Szaky) of Terracycle – the specialists in hard-to-recycle plastic – has commented recently that

“concerns around unintended consequences and a lack of unified definitions continue to dominate the conversations on bio-based, biodegradable and compostable packaging” and ” there is only one option for businesses looking to mitigate unintended environmental consequences from all angles – refill and reuse

“ReFILL and ReUSE” was one of the principal messages highlighted by Transition Groups present at various events over the past year. The Green Truro Festival (July) and the One World Week exhibition in Truro Cathedral (October) saw displays of a range of reusable cups and water bottles as alternatives to single-use disposable cups and plastic bottles.

The Plastic Bottle Top Challenge (tops collected mostly from beaches and hedgerows) realised almost 200 entrants at these events with 6 lucky winners of a reusable stainless steel water bottle each. Cornwall Council’s hand-outs on household plastic recycling proved to be very popular.

It is good to report that several businesses in Falmouth and Truro have adopted Refill Stations in their shops which are included in the Transition Falmouth Food Guide where food items are sold

The ReFill Store in Lemon Street Market, Truro

Raising the profile of collection points for Hard-to-Recycle plastic items has been a recent initiative for Transition Truro and an initial list for the Truro area is now up on their website. A list for Falmouth is planned.

Crisp Packet and Battery Recycling points in Falmouth Library

“Turning Off the Plastic Tap” Twelve Top Tips produced by Transition Falmouth – designed to help individuals reduce their single-use plastic footprint – has been updated and is here on our website.

Plastic-stemmed cotton buds are due to be banned in Scotland at the end of this year, while it is expected to see a ban on plastic buds, straws and stirrers in the rest of the UK as from April 2020.

Practical action by one TF member involves 2 minute beach cleans of the Truro River foreshore collecting and recording plastic and glass bottles and metal cans. The data is sent to the Marine Conservation Society for evidence to support the introduction of a Deposit Return System (DRS) for England. You do not have to be a member to be involved.

Simply go to https://www.mcsuk.org/clean-seas/drs to report your “wild bottle” sightings. Start collecting, recording and recycling today!

The recent report on Plastic Food and Drink Packaging produced by the EFRA Parliamentary Committee (September) has been circulated and contains key recommendations aimed at reducing pollution caused by plastic packaging.

The three principal proposals are summarized in the report which includes :

a) the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPS) for Manufacturers

b) the introduction of a Deposit Return System (DRS) for drinks containers by 2023

c) consistency in business and municipal recycling collections.

The Committee also calls for much clearer labelling on packaging.

The full report or summary can be read here.

It’s worth noting that Scotland is proposing to introduce its version of a DRS by 2021 to radically increase recycling rates and reduce littering. More information here https://resource.co/article/legislation-indicates-2021-start-date-scottish-drs

Comment:

If the tide is to be turned on plastic waste and pollution all the recommendations made by the EFRA Committee in their report need to be fully implemented as soon as possible. Transition and other groups need to be holding to account whichever Government comes into office in 2020.

Re-design, refill, reuse, reduce and recycle are the watchwords for plastic waste reduction which will also help to combat climate change as well as tackle plastic pollution.

Transition Falmouth has signed up to the ExeMPLaR Project whose mission is

“to create a comprehensive, systematic and coordinated approach to form a novel and creative regional circular plastics economy in the South West of England, where plastics never become waste or pollution

We would encourage others to do the same by visiting https://exemplarnet.org.uk

November 2019


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