The Ban of Plastic and the Need for Local Action

Following Lidl’s announcement that they will be reducing their plastic packaging, Jack Knowles looks at the reasons to go plastic-free.

Global warming is a reality. Now it is time to think: how we can stop it? The planet is being destroyed by us. We are digging under the earth we stand on, leaving no support for ourselves or our future. Our actions have a global impact. The generation now is so well informed. The margin between awareness of global warming and action is too small. It needs to change. Little victories will be the path to grander ones to come.

This comes in light of Lidl’s announcement on April 7th that they received feedback from their customers and are reducing plastic packaging for vegetables, by introducing loose packaging. For the previous several weeks Lidl had reduced plastic usage of fruit only. It should be noted that not all fruit and vegetable non-recycable plastic packaging has been removed. Neither is it in full operation. It will continue to be trialled and tested. This may seem insignificant, but it is a step in the right direction.

In March, Lidl announced that 100% of their own-label packaging will be recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025. Lidl also wishes to cut its plastic packaging by 20% by 2022. Aldi has stated that they plan to reduce their plastic packaging to be 100% recyclable by 2022. These are steps in the right direction, for now. The fight for retailers to act more urgently still hangs. Retailers produce 80,000 tonnes of plastic waste in Ireland alone and this can be avoided.

Plastic is dangerous for the environment as it is made from a non-biodegradable substance: polythene

Plastic is dangerous for the environment as it is made from a non-biodegradable substance: polythene. It can take 1,000 years to decompose. In 2013 a report from the European Commission revealed that plastic was found in the stomachs of over 93% of birds in the North Sea. The burning of plastic releases toxic substances such as carbon monoxide, dioxins, and furans. These chemicals severely pollute the atmosphere.

The reduction of plastic plan outlined by the retailers seems to follow the trend of bans circulating the globe. Back in 2011, Italy banned the use of plastic bags. Before the law was put in place 20 billion plastic bags were used a year. In 2016, France said that they will ban plastic cups, plates, and cutlery with the law coming into effect in 2020. This is part of France’s Energy Transition for Green Growth, which is an ambitious plan that serves as a roadmap for France’s energy usage. This is to allow for cleaner, more environmentally-friendly energy to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG). Some proposals included for example: reducing GHG emissions by 40% by 2030, reduce fossil fuel consumption by 30% by 2030, and halving the amount of landfilled waste by 2025. These are just some of its goals.

Theresa May has committed the UK to diminishing its plastic usage completely by 2042. Laying down a 25-year plan and investing £7 billion in research for plastic innovation, the UK move on plastic in comparison to European counterparts seems less urgent. When looking at it overall a lot of countries seem to simply be laying down plans instead of undertaking immediate action, which is required.

Retailers produce 80,000 tonnes of plastic waste in Ireland alone and this can be avoided

Iceland recently had a parliamentary proposal submitted by the Social Democrats to ban plastic bags, following the example of many European countries. The European Commission aims to ban single-use coffee cups by 2030 and the European Commission outlined their wish to make all plastic items recyclable and reusable. This comes in the wake of China’s ban on importing contaminated plastic, China also has plans to ban 24 types of material waste from being imported. This recent action is part of President Xi Jinping’s mission to make China more environmentally-friendly.

China’s move comes with economic consequences for the likes of the USA and the UK. Ireland, will also be hit as we are currently exporting 95% of our waste. It is time to look at what we can do locally and how that will have a large effect on a cleaner environment. By acting, we will not only create an environmentally-friendly country but we will give the government a push to recognise the urgency of the matter needed.

In March, Lidl announced that 100% of their own-label packaging will be recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025

Look at local actions being taken up recently. In Newpark, a secondary school in Blackrock, a campaign by transition year students called ‘Plastic Outta the Park’ has eradicated the use of plastic items on its school’s campus. A local small effort is something to be cherished. Next, look at a petition on change.org, for Trinity College, that proposed Trinity becomes a plastic-free campus. The petition was a success and the first steps to becoming plastic-free campus are to be implanted in coming months.

I urge you to join the battle against plastic. One local action that you can do, if you wish, is to sign a local petition that calls for supermarkets to eradicate the use of single-use plastic packaging. You can find it on change.org. titled ‘End Plastic Packaging of Fruit & Vegetables in Supermarkets.’ This is something we can do and can add to the slowly building snowball, that will only grow greater with more small actions.