Through-out 2018 and 2019, Tri-pack were avid campaigners against the press’s common failure to distinguish between different types of plastics. Labelling them and educating the population, that all plastic was bad. In the middle of 2019, we really started to see a shift in the terminology used, and the term ‘single-use’ plastics became the topic of headlines. This brought about changes in legislation and many companies opted for switching to more eco-friendly plastic options. We saw McDonald’s trade plastic to paper straws, single-use plastic cups were replaced with paper and so on.

The Government’s war on plastic continues

The press started to educate us better on the different types of plastic and local authorities started putting in stricter measures for those not reusing and recycling properly. But now, mid-2020, amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, we have a new plastic danger to contend with.

Single-use PPE

With the Government’s announcement to legalise the wearing of face-masks in shops and on public transport, there has been a huge rise in the purchase of single-use PPE, along with the mass of disposal of it. PPE has already found its way onto our streets and into our oceans from not being properly disposed of.

What many people are unaware of, is single-use PPE, i.e. medical face-masks, contain plastic. While they may have a paper-like property to them, they will not naturally biodegrade like paper and will continue to pollute our planet in the same way plastic bags have been. The Euronews reported on how real the problem is on our shores in Brighton;

“We’re finding dozens of masks, even visors. We’ve found birds with their gullets stuffed full of latex gloves, a nest of dead chicks — crabs tangled up in face masks — it’s everywhere.” – said Joe Williams, a senior aquarist at the Sea Life aquarium in Brighton.

PPE is a new breed of single-use plastic which was not even a contender in 2019. There appears to be no guidance as it stands for how to properly dispose of this material. Many campaigners are calling for the process of manufacture, reuse and recycle to be addressed, appealing for recyclable plastics or no plastic at all to be used in PPE moving forward.

The UK is only now entering the stages of the virus where PPE is becoming essential, the growing single-use plastic issue is currently only at the tip of the iceberg and will skyrocket as more and more people purchase face-masks.