Just How Much Plastic Pollution Do Supermarkets Create?

Feb 02 2018 Read 2019 Times

At the beginning of January 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May announced the UK’s war on plastic waste. One of the strategies May announced was the to have plastic free aisles in supermarkets. But could plastic free aisles make that much of a difference? Read on as we look at just how much plastic is used by supermarkets each year.

300 million tonnes of plastic

Over the past half a century, the world’s production and consumption of plastics has continued to rise, despite some efforts to cut back. Over 300 million tonnes tonnes of plastic are produced each year with only 10% being recycled – meaning the rest goes straight to plastic waste.

Plastic materials are made to be very durable – and are therefore very slow to degrade. Eventually, plastics do decompose, but it can take up to 100-500 years depending on the composition of the plastic. During this time, the plastics wreak havoc across the world.

One of the main places to be hit is the ocean – with 8 million tonnes of plastic making its way into the world’s waters every year. Plastic particles are broken into tiny fragments, where they are then digested by fish and wildlife. Once consumed by the animals, the plastic begins to break down in their stomachs releasing deadly chemicals. Plastic waste in the ocean has been held responsible for impacting over 267 species.

Plastic waste in supermarkets

With concerns over the amount of unnecessary plastic waste being pumped in to the environment, the attention has been put on supermarkets and the amount of plastic they use. Supermarkets must keep records of the amount of plastic they use each year under an EU directive. But these figures don’t have to be shared with the public.

However, a recent investigation looked into the amount of plastic they went through. The UK’s leading supermarkets produce an estimated 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste each year. This plastic waste includes plastic packaging for foods, plastic bags and plastic containers. It has also been suggested that supermarkets contribute very little towards the cost of recycling, despite accounting for over half of the UK’s household plastic waste.

Plastic free aisles

May’s fight against plastic pollution is targeting supermarkets in the hope to clamp down on unnecessary plastic waste. With the idea of plastic free aisles, the amount of plastic used in relation to food could dramatically reduce. With supermarkets looking to cut back on their plastic use through their own brands, it is hoped that this will push national brands to reduce the amount of avoidable plastics used.

Monitoring water - beyond plastic

It’s not just plastic pollution and littering that are monitored in water sources. The temperature of water is also crucial. Fluctuations in temperature can significantly affect water chemistry, which is essential in a number of industries. For more information, take a look at the article ‘AQA 7/17-2 - 4 Industries Which Require Water Temperature Monitoring’.

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