An environmental group has urged food retailers to create a plastic-free aisle in stores to help limit the amount of packaging that ends up in the world’s oceans.
The new campaign “A Plastic-Free Aisle” is due to be launched in the next few weeks and will be “clear, simple and doable”, according to campaigners at the Plastics Oceans Foundation.
"We want to buy food that is not wrapped or contaminated with plastic,” the charity’s trustee Sian Sutherland told Sky News. “The situation with plastics is very urgent and we have to do something now. We are asking supermarkets to be part of the process,” she added.
Experts at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation have estimated that there will be more plastic waste than fish in the oceans by 2050.
Though plastic can form large floating islands of waste, of no less concern is when it breaks down into tiny pieces and is subsequently fed on by fish and other marine wildlife. Research by environmental charity Fidra has estimated that billions of pre-production plastic pellets are also escaping into the seas. Microbeads – mainly from cosmetics products – are another major source of microplastic pollution.
This all adds up to a microplastic buffet for marine wildlife. Indeed, research has found microplastic debris in a quarter of fish sold for human consumption. The impact on human health is unclear, but pressure is mounting on governments to regulate.
Plastic microbeads could soon be banned in the UK. A deposit return scheme on bottles has been under consideration by the government, but this week the Daily Mail reported a DEFRA source who said the policy was “unlikely” but hasn’t been completely ruled out as part of a new national litter strategy.
Support for a deposit scheme, which has been trialled in Scotland, follows the success of the 5p charge on single use carrier bags. The packaging industry has said the concept is far too expensive and won’t improve recycling.