Sian Sutherland speaks about Theresa May’s recent call for all supermarkets to go plastic free and APP’s campaign for a plastic free aisle.
Theresa May has said that she will review the evidence around plastic bottle deposit schemes as she described how she and her husband Philip had increased their own efforts to help the environment.
The prime minister said that the government would weigh up whether it was better to encourage more reuse or more recycling of plastic bottles.
She conceded that deposit schemes had worked in the past, recalling a glass bottle programme in her youth when a sixpence deposit was levied on Corona beer bottles. “Let’s look at the evidence and let’s see what is going to have the greatest impact,” she said.
Mrs May outlined her 25-year environment plan in a speech in southwest London this morning. She said that she and Philip had installed barn owl and bat boxes in their garden in her Maidenhead constituency.
Challenged by The Times on whether her focus on the green agenda was a new conversion, she insisted that she had long been tuned in to the issues and pointed out she once served as shadow environment secretary.
The headline announcement in her plan to cut government waste is a push for plastic-free aisles in supermarkets where all food is loose.
Mrs May committed to eliminating “avoidable” plastic waste within a quarter of a century under the plan published today after months of delay.
She pledged “action at every stage of the production and consumption of plastic”, targeting manufacturers and the supermarkets that sell thousands of products wrapped in single-use plastic. Next month the government will call for evidence on how taxes or charges might discourage the use of products such as takeaway containers.
Mrs May said: “We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals, untreated, into rivers was ever the right thing to do. In years to come I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly.
“This plastic is ingested by dozens of species of marine mammals and over 100 species of sea birds, causing immense suffering to individual creatures and degrading vital habitats. This truly is one of the great environmental scourges of our time.”
She confirmed that the aid budget would be used to help developing countries reduce plastic pollution of the sea, much of which comes from ten rivers in Asia and Africa.
Katie Perrior, Mrs May’s former director of communications, revealed today that the prime minister was not always so enthusiastic about green issues. Andrea Leadsom, the former environment secretary, was told to make the 25-year environment plan “as boring as possible” but Mrs May is now “desperate for the good headlines”, Ms Perrior said.
No 10 did not explain how the government would persuade supermarkets to introduce plastic-free aisles. A spokeswoman said: “We’re exploring the potential for plastic-free aisles where all food is loose in supermarkets. We will need to look at the potential for this with [the waste reduction charity] Wrap and retailers.”
The idea of plastic-free aisles was borrowed from the campaign group A Plastic Planet, co-founded last year by the entrepreneur Sian Sutherland. She welcomed Mrs May’s announcement but said that selling all food loose was unrealistic and would be inconvenient for shoppers, who might have to bring their own containers.
The British Retail Consortium said: “Packaging still plays an important role in reducing food waste.”
Supermarkets are already being shamed into action on single-use plastic. Yesterday Marks & Spencer withdrew a £2.50 “cauliflower steak” after it was ridiculed for the packaging and price. Last night Tesco pledged support for a deposit scheme for plastic bottles. It had previously refused to endorse the idea but said that it was exploring “how this can operate in practice and at scale”.