The plastic surgery: 10 ways bodies and brands are taking action

From national and global organisations to shops, brands and even a band – awareness is growing that plastic is not fantastic. We round up 10 that are taking action


1. EU orders urgent plastics clean-up plan

The EU has launched a plastics strategy that aims to ensure every piece of packaging on the continent is reusable or recyclable by 2030. The body is considering plans to tax damaging behaviour, modernise plastic production and collection by investing €350m (£310m) in research.

Image: Martin Sanchez

2. Supermarkets pledge to slash plastic waste

In the face of increased scrutiny, supermarkets have made a series of plastic-related commitments in recent months. Asda has promised to get rid of all 5p carrier bags by the end of 2018, switch 2.4m plastic straws in its cafes to paper, and introduce reusable drinks cups in its shops and cafes by 2019. Iceland has committed to eliminating plastic packaging from its own-brand products within five years.


3. Scotland plans to outlaw plastic cotton buds

A proposed crackdown on the manufacture and sale of plastic cotton buds will cut Scotland’s contribution to marine plastic pollution by half according to Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Image: Sharon McCutcheon

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4. McDonald’s eyes 100 per cent sustainable packaging goal

The world’s largest restaurant company has announced that all of its packaging will be made from renewable, recycled or certified sustainable materials by 2025, up from 50 per cent currently.

5. PG tips announces switch to plastic-free teabags

The UK’s biggest tea brand will switch to fully biodegradable teabags free from synthetic materials by the end of the year, the brand announced. Clipper has also pledged to make the switch. While some bags use meltable plastic fibres to heat seal their four corners, Pukka Herbs bags are stitched using compostable organic cotton. It keeps their herbs in staple-free and plastic-free.

Image: Dayne Topkin

6. Waitrose to ditch disposable coffee cups

Waitrose has announced plans to remove all disposable coffee cups from their shops by autumn 2018. Customers will instead have to bring reusable cups. Though they look like cardboard, coffee cups are usually lined with polyethylene and so tough to recycle. The cups gradually break down to form microplastics.

Image: Justin Leibow

7. London to get 20 public water fountains

Public water fountains will be installed in London in a bid to combat single-use plastic bottles. The first of 20 has already been installed in Carnaby Street in the West End, while two further will spring up in Liverpool Street station and another in Flat Iron Square in Southwark in the coming weeks. “We want to make sure that it becomes the norm that people cannot use single-use plastic bottles,” said Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor for environment and energy.

8. Lego launches plant-based toy range

The first Lego pieces made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugar cane will go on sale this year, the Danish toymaker has announced. Production has started on a range of Lego ‘botanical elements’, including leaves, bushes and trees, that are made entirely from plant-based plastic. The company has committed to using more sustainable materials in its core products – including its famous bricks – and packaging by 2030.

Image: LEGO

9. BBC aims to ditch single-use plastics by 2020

Plastic cups and cutlery will be removed from all BBC sites by the end of 2018, ending the use of around 2m plastic cups by visitors and staff each year, the corporation announced in February. Plastic cups will be replaced with glasses, and a coffee cup recycling scheme is being trialled in Salford. The corporation has also promised to discuss with suppliers whether further action can be made to cut single-use plastics, for example, in catering on location. The BBC aims to be free of single-use plastic across its operations by 2020.

Image: William Bayreuther

10. The band that ditched plastic for their debut album

A band from Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire have decided to ditch ‘soulless’ plastic CDs and instead release their new album as a handcrafted, handbound book of illustrated poetry. Recorded in a small blue cabin, high up on the West Pennine Moors, Johnny Powell and the Seasonal Beasts have made an acoustic collection of nine ‘modern folk’ songs – an album called Twice. It will be released in two formats: as a pay-as-you-feel download on Bandcamp, and a handmade book that contains the lyrics and specially commissioned artwork.

Alongside the music, the group worked with other artists to create photographs and illustrations, spoken word recitals and illustrated lyric books as well as giclée prints and postcards. The books are handbound and finished by local bookbinder Sarah Quick using sustainably sourced materials. “The idea is to make something that really values the efforts of everyone involved, something special that people will love to hold for years to come,” said singer Johnny Powell.

Illustration: Alice Mill

Featured image: Meghan Rodgers


This article is part of a special focus on zero-waste pioneers, which also features in Positive News magazine. Subscribe now to get the magazine delivered to your door each quarter.