Survey shows UK consumers want food wrapped in compostable packaging

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

A proposed UK plastic tax doesn't treat compostable packaging differently, including it with regular plastics. Pic: TIPA
A proposed UK plastic tax doesn't treat compostable packaging differently, including it with regular plastics. Pic: TIPA

Related tags Sustainability Plastic compostable packaging

According to a new poll, most of the British public want to get rid of plastic packaging on food and have compostable packaging instead.

The Yonder survey of 2,085 UK adults, commissioned by TIPA - a producer of compostable materials - revealed 83% would prefer their food to be wrapped in compostable rather than traditional plastic packaging for environmental reasons.

The study comes as the UK Government’s plans to roll out a Plastic Packaging Tax, set to launch in April 2022.

The poll shows support for the tax in principle – yet many campaigners and members of the public have expressed concerns the proposed tax does not make allowances for compostable packaging solutions.

The survey found 83% are supportive of a tax on plastic packaging to curb plastic waste, and there is public support for compostable packaging as a sustainable alternative to traditional plastic packaging. 

More than eight in 10 agree that a tax aimed at reducing the amount of plastic packaging used by food and drink manufacturers is a good idea in principle, while 80% believe the tax should treat compostable materials differently to traditional plastic.

Currently, TIPA said, the tax treats compostable packaging as if it were traditional polluting plastic. This differs from many other countries, such as Italy, Ireland and Japan, which have enacted policies promoting compostable materials.

Industry leaders, politicians and campaigners argue including compostable packaging in the same tax category as traditional plastic undermines the purpose of compostable materials, which are a waste-free solution to the plastic crisis.

Daphna Nissenbaum, CEO and co-founder of TIPA, said, “The plastic packaging tax is an opportunity for the UK to establish itself as a global leader in the fight against plastic waste. Yet it is failing to allow for innovative packaging solutions like compostable packaging which are essential if we are to curb plastic pollution. 

“Compostable packaging offers a sustainable solution to things like food contact plastic films, which for many reasons cannot be recycled. Instead, they are removed at recycling facilities and either sent to landfill or incinerated. This poll shows clear public support for compostable packaging. It is vital that the Government listens to this and recognizes the need for a separate tax system for compostable packaging.”

The poll follows mounting pressure from politicians on the Government to develop stronger infrastructure and policy support around compostable packaging.

Last week, Baroness Bakewell addressed the House of Lords, calling on the Government to recognize the role of compostable materials in reducing plastic pollution. Peers are now set to consider amending the plastic tax to exclude compostable materials.

Baroness Bakewell said, “Plastic films are extremely hard to recycle, and even if they are recycled are seldom if ever recycled into new films.  The idea of a ‘circular economy’ on such packaging is just an illusion. 

“By contrast, compostable films can be an appropriate substitute, and more sustainable than conventional films from recycled sources.  The unintended consequence of the plastics tax as it stands is that these innovative solutions are perversely penalized.  My amendment to the Environment Bill would ensure that independently certified compostable films are treated as separate and distinct from conventional plastics.”

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