In recent months it has come to light that there exists some types of plastic that are entirely unrecyclable. Black plastic, which is typically found encasing meat and other food in supermarkets, is one of the main culprits. Because black carbon is added to the plastic in order to dye it, it evades the optical sorting systems used in sorting rubbish. Therefore, it inevitably ends up in landfill and in our oceans. This is hugely significant as according to Greenpeace UK, 1.3 billion black plastic trays are used every year.
UK supermarket, Waitrose, has taken the bold decision to completely remove all black plastic packaging by the end of 2019. Having already removed 65 per cent of the black plastic in its stores, it is encouraging to see it taking meaningful decisions to solve an eminently solvable issue. In June of this year, Quorn managed to rid itself of 297 tonnes of black plastic from its packaging having claimed that it was unsustainable and irresponsible not to do so.
While these steps from large organisations are encouraging, in reality, we should be trying to avoid plastic entirely rather than simply abolishing the non-recyclable elements. For us to truly turn the tide on plastic, we are going to need supermarkets and other large organisations to think innovatively and encourage consumers to reuse – as opposed to relying upon single-use items.