The True Solutions to Plastic Pollution

We are proud to be awarded Green Flag status and are actively working towards securing our 6th Green Flag which is the highest award given by Eco Schools. As a result of winning the inaugural Eco Schools debating competition a number of years ago, we are invited to join various activities and events.

Roisin in Year 12, is our Green Team leader and recently attended one such event, jointly hosted by the Tidy Britain and Ocean Conservation All-Party Parliamentary Group to discuss the true solutions to the plastic pollution crisis, on behalf of the school. The event featured an expert panel of leading industry representatives, politicians, academics, politicians and campaigners, being quizzed by youth activists on the actions we need now to stop plastic flowing into the natural environment.

She reports back…

“On 18 November, I attended an APPG webinar hosted by the Ocean Conservation and Tidy Britain. An APPG is an All-Party Parliamentary Group; these groups are informal meetings typically run by Members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords which can include contributions from external organisations.

This APPG was arranged to discuss the issue of plastic pollution and convey the specific problems associated with this global dilemma. The aim of this APPG is to notify MPs of the important sources of plastic pollution and communicate the views of young people to inform the final structure and content of the Environment Bill, a recent and developing piece of legislation which could help to tackle the plastic problem.

A group of expert speakers was assembled to address these concerns and propose potential solutions to the origins of plastic pollution. These experts came from a range of different backgrounds, including:

  • Lucy Seigal – Author and Broadcaster
  • Dr Richard Thompson – Director of the Marine Institute, Plymouth University
  • Yuyun Ismawiti – International Environmental Engineer and campaigner
  • Michelle Norman – Director of External Affairs and Sustainability at Suntory Beverage & Food Great Britain and Ireland
  • Rt Hon George Eustace MP – Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Suggestions from the panel included a reduction in the volume of plastic produced, greater producer responsibility (companies should be responsible for the volume of plastic they manufacture and use), the implementation of a circular economic model (in which materials are continuously used, reused and recycled- no waste is produced) and the introduction of increased transparency surrounding the recycling process so UK citizens gain increased awareness about the, potentially international, destination of their waste and the manner in which it is treated and disposed of.

I was particularly interested in the idea of the circular economy. This model proposes to mimic the manner in which nature continuously recycles organic matter, applying this template to our own culture of consumption. This would mean rethinking the process of manufacturing products and packaging, so our waste does not become a mounting problem. This informed the question I intended to propose to the panel, in which I would have asked if this circular economic model could be implemented in the UK, with the large-scale societal implications it suggests. Unfortunately, there was no time to answer questions from audience members, but this idea made me consider alternative approaches to the problem of plastic pollution and waste disposal.

Several questions were posed by the youth panel, which represented a range of voices and youth organisations from across the UK. The government was asked to take greater action to control plastic production and implement incentives for producers to take responsibility for their plastic output. The Secretary of State, the Rt Hon George Eustace MP, responded with his articulation of the proposed introduction of charges for single-use plastic items, the Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme and the Deposit Return Scheme initiatives, which aim to reduce the UK’s plastic waste output.

Overall, I found I gained some useful insights into the current thinking concerning potential solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. I received the impression that a large-scale shift would be necessary to produce the type of change necessary to greatly reduce plastic consumption and disposal. It was encouraging, though, to learn about aspects of the Environment Bill which aim to respond with greater vigour to this global challenge.”