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BRC responds to Government 25 Year Environment Plan

Responding to the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan, Andrew Opie, Director of Food Policy at the British Retail Consortium (pictured), has just released the following statement:

“We welcome this strategic approach and long-term focus. The retail industry wants to see a holistic approach to the environment and resources rather than shifting from single issue to single issue.

“While plastic pollution needs to be tackled head on, we need a comprehensive strategy which considers all materials and resources and sets out how the Government intends to shift to a circular economy where all resources are valued and reused when possible. A comprehensive approach will ensure that we avoid unintended consequences. For example, packaging plays a key role in the prevention of food waste – another key Government priority – with a shrink wrapped cucumber lasting five times as long as an unwrapped one.

“One element missing from the Plan is details on how we improve the waste and recycling infrastructure in the UK and work with local authorities to improve consistency in recycling collections. This is particularly pertinent in light of China’s recent ban on importing recycled waste for processing and we look forward to working with Government on this issue in the lead up to the Resources and Waste Strategy expected later this year.

On carrier bags:
“We have always supported universal coverage of the England carrier bag charge but the most important thing that Government needs to show is leadership in developing a comprehensive strategy to shift to a circular economy.

On plastic free aisles:
“Retailers are continuing to reduce the amount of packaging and ensure the packaging they do use is recyclable. Although there are plastic free parts of a supermarket, such as loose, fresh produce, packaging still plays an important role in reducing food waste and has to be seen in the wider context of the total environmental impact of our food supply chain. For example, shrink wrapped cucumber will last around five times longer than non-shrink wrapped ones.”

On a call for evidence on a plastics tax:
“A plastics tax begs a number of questions such as the time frame for exploring a tax, what Ministers hope to do with the receipts, and the impact on consumers and businesses and we look forward to working with Government on these issues.

'All plastic packaging items are already 'taxed' when used under producer responsibility measures. Rather than introduce a second system, the current system could be reformed. Any new tax should have a clear intended outcome. For example, increasing the costs of products is unlikely to result in positive consumer behaviour change.”

On a commitment to help developing nations tackle pollution and reduce plastic waste, including through UK aid:
“Research shows that Asia accounts for more than 80% of the total leakage of plastic into the ocean. Marine plastic pollution by plastic is a global issue and requires globally implemented solutions. The UK and other European nations have a leadership role to play here and we look forward to working with Government in this area.”

On innovation:
“Retailers are continually innovating in relation to packaging and recyclability and, investing with their suppliers, are pioneering a number of initiatives that could make a significant difference to the recyclability of packaging and use of recycled material, if workable and adopted at scale.

'For example, retailers are working to set a minimum recycled content in their milk bottles and have introduced lighter coloured milk bottle caps to ensure that they are recyclable. The industry is also working to eliminate non-recyclable elements, such as PVC and polystyrene, from their packaging.”