Glasgow is set to phase out single use plastics by 2022 and become free of all unnecessary plastic by the year 2030 following a decision by the council’s City Administration Committee.
Driven by concerns over the harmful impact plastic is having on the natural world, the Plastics Reduction Strategy has set out a 22-point action plan for preventing and reducing the amount of plastic used and then disposed of in Glasgow. This follows a public consultation on plastic reduction earlier this year that received over 1500 individual responses and provided overwhelming support for work to reduce single use plastic consumption, in particular.
The long term objective of the strategy is to end the use of plastic where that can be avoided or an alternative reusable version of the plastic item exists.
But given the scale of the issue and the need to advance quickly, the 22-point plan is solely focused on delivering progress in 2020 with further actions to be updated and renewed on an annual basis over the course of the strategy.
Some of the key points of the initial action include a feasibility study on a city-wide ban of certain single use plastic items, developing Glasgow’s first plastic-free shopping zone, extending the number of free top-up taps for refilling reusable water bottles, supporting projects that remove plastics from the city’s water ways and exploring the possibility of Glasgow’s first plastic free school.
But the plan also includes a call to tighten up legislation on single-use plastics, such as plastic bags and plastic packaging, and looks at how the council can lead by example on reducing the use of unnecessary plastics. A communication and education campaign on how to reduce, reuse and recycle plastic would be integral to achieving the 2030 target.
The strategy further highlights plastic-reduction possibilities in relation to school catering and council-family operated cafes, reforming the council’s procurement procedures to ensure they are fully engaged with the plastic-reduction agenda and continuing to roll-out the Glasgow Cup Movement, which recycles and reduces the use of single-use cups for hot drinks.
One of the first actions proposed by the strategy is that Glasgow becomes a signatory to the Eurocities commitment to curb plastic waste and littering, which was recently led by Oslo.
Anna Richardson, City Convener for Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, said the strategy was built upon the basic principles of the ‘waste hierarchy’, which places the emphasis on prevention, reuse, recycling and recovery with disposal always as a last resort.
But even with rapid technological advances taking place in relation to plastic, she indicated that the city would have to move quickly to achieve an end to the use of unnecessary plastic by 2030.
Councillor Richardson said: “Plastic has become ever present feature of modern life and it has any number of vital applications. It’s important we do not demonise plastic. From medical equipment to car safety features, computers and wheelie bins, plastic shows it usefulness time and time again.
“But we do live in a throwaway society and we do take for granted the impact that flows from treating so many plastic products as instantly disposable. The Plastic Reduction Strategy is therefore about seeking alternatives to plastic but also an alternative approach to how we use plastic itself.
“Plastic clearly has its place, but aiming to end the unnecessary use of plastic will have a significant positive impact on the environment. There is already a huge amount of scope for our habits to change and technology is evolving so quickly that our norms will be transformed in the years ahead.
“The action plan sets a course for rapid change in the initial stages and we intend to update our plans on a regular basis. This will help us gather momentum but also refine and strengthen the strategy over its lifespan. The action set out in the strategy can help Glasgow maintain its position in the UK and across Europe as a leading local authority on sustainability issues.”
Producing a plastic reduction plan was one of the recommendations made in the recent report by the Climate Emergency Working Group.
Further information on the plastics reduction strategy can be found in the paper presented to the City Administration Committee.