Speaking at a conference on 'Ocean Plastics-Consequences and Solutions', in Falmouth on last week, BPF Director-General, Philip Law, told the audience that a wide range of other stakeholders must work with the plastics industry in helping to limit the presence of used plastics in the oceans.
"The plastics industry is one part of the supply chain and is often several stages removed from a product's final disposal,” Law told delegates. “All interested parties, both commercial and voluntary, must act together'.”
Law added that the BPF, alongside other industry partners, is active in the Marine Litter Action Network (MLAN), which is coordinated by the Marine Conservation Society.
He said that some parties had suggested the application of deposit systems to keep packaging off beaches, but he believed that it would add to society's costs, effectively creating two parallel collection systems. “In any event, it would only address a part of packaging,” he added.
To those who advocated the use of biodegradable plastics as a solution, Law warned that this was a very complex field, which does not lend itself to early generalisation. He said that whilst there are some excellent applications for these materials, there is debate in the industry over the extent to which they are compatible with the recycling of conventional plastics. Degradability as a concept, he said, might actually encourage littering.
In his keynote presentation to the Conference, Law said "the most fruitful solution to this highly complex issue rests on more education about littering in schools, more rigorous enforcement of laws and punishments against dumpers and litterers, and a greater provision of collection facilities in parts and on beaches.”
He said that the plastics industry recognises that this is an issue that needs to be addressed and that it wants to be part of the solution. However, other key stakeholders, Law explained, should be “active and work in a coordinated way including the shipping lines, port authorities, local authorities, brand owners, retailers and schools.”