The global trend to abandon plastic packaging in stores could harm the environment, according to a new study. The authors of the Plastic Promises report
say the consequences of using various materials instead of plastic have not been properly evaluated.
The change has been prompted by buyers’ concerns about the impact of plastic waste on the oceans. But glass bottles, for example, are much heavier than plastic ones, so more fuel is required for their transportation and polluting emissions are higher. Paper bags tend to have higher carbon emissions than plastic bags and are more difficult to reuse.
Some supermarkets in the UK prefer drinks in cartons, believing that they can be recycled. But according to the UK-based Green Alliance, only a third of such packages are recycled.
«A lot of shops are selling packaging described as biodegradable or compostable. In fact the items might only be composted in an industrial composter — and, even then, some items might not be fully digested,» the group spokeswoman Libby Peake told BBC News.
«Over 80% of consumers think biodegradable or compostable plastic is environmentally friendly, but there is little understanding of what the terms mean and how the material should be dealt with,» the report says.
Andrew Opie from the British Retail Consortium is calling for a clearer strategy.
«All responsible retailers agree that climate change needs to be at the heart of their business, whether that is sourcing products or changing packaging. Plastic remains the most effective material in many circumstances — for example cucumbers wrapped in plastic last 14 days longer, reducing food waste.»
«A coherent waste and resources strategy is one that prioritizes reducing the environmental impact of the things we buy, not simply reducing plastic use.»