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Charging for plastic bags : Viridor talks to BBC 5 Live

05th October 2015

Since the widespread introduction of plastic bags for high-street shoppers in the 1960s, plastic carrier bags have taken over. Last year alone over 7.6 billion carrier bags were handed out.

Often used just once and then discarded, plastic bags commonly arrive at landfill sites where it can take up to 300 years to decay; others litter towns and hedgerows and even become a contamination issue for some comingled recycling material recycling facilities. Whilst we can still recover the energy from facilities such as Ardley ERF, they are of far greater value if we can recycle them into higher quality recyclate to re-enter the manufacturing sector.

Although plastic bags now use 70 per cent less plastic thanks to stronger design features, and despite often contain a percentage of recycled materials, they still are derived from non-renewable fossil oil and require high amounts of energy to produce. With the average person using six plastic bags per week, a whole year’s worth of bags uses the same amount of energy as having a TV on for 15 days solid – that’s one long boxed-set!

The issue here is a cultural change; we must move away from the cliché of being a throwaway society and start looking at waste as a resource. If we can do this, we will start to see real benefits for the economy and our society; we will be using fewer resources and spending less money disposing of bundles of plastic bags only to make new ones again.

In terms of plastic bag legislation, England is playing catch up – Scotland started charging customers for plastic carrier bags in October 2014. Since then over 150 million fewer carrier bags have been handed out. By persuading customers to use bags-for-life and to reuse plastic shopping bags, they have been able to reduce the volume of plastic ending up in the bin.

England has now followed suit, with the intention of reducing the number of single-use carrier bags used in the UK as a whole by 50-80 per cent and saving over £80 million pounds on cleaning up after them. There are a few exceptions, including unwrapped sharp objects, raw meat and pet fish. For more information visit here.

On Monday, Head of Media Relations and Public Affairs Martin Grey spoke to BBC Radio 5 Live at Ardley ERF about what the introduction of a levy on plastic bags in England means for our industry. The interview focused on how we can reduce the number of plastic bags we are using as a nation and how we can push them up the waste hierarchy, recycling them where we can to further enhance the UK’s circular economy credentials.

For information on Ardley ERF visit here.

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