Waste Watch: Russia, UK Adopt Single Use Plastics Bans

By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

The following ABC news report caught my eye –  an unintentional parody of the lack of urgency governments are collectively devoting to prevent drowning ourselves in plastics waste, Countries take steps toward curbing plastic waste in oceans:

An intergovernmental conference has taken early steps toward drawing up an agreement to curb plastic pollution and marine litter around the world, which can choke off sea life, harm food safety and coastal tourism, and contribute to climate change.

A draft resolution presented by Peru and Rwanda, and backed by the European Union and several other countries, at the end of a two-day Geneva conference on Thursday amounts to a procedural step, but one that aims to build momentum for drawing up language as early as next year on a binding global deal.

The draft, which mostly aims to set up a committee to negotiate the language of a possible accord, is expected to be considered at a U.N. Environment Assembly meeting in February.

Supporters hope to unify fragmented efforts to curb such waste around the world. They hope to take into account the full lifecycle of plastics — from production to consumption to waste management, treatment and prevention.

“The end goal, or the target, is to have zero waste,” said Oliver Boachie, a special adviser to the government of Ghana, which co-organized the conference with Ecuador, Germany and Vietnam. More than 1,000 representatives from over 140 countries took part, along with advocacy groups.

Boachie told reporters there were no holdouts among countries, but that some unspecified countries were still assessing prospects for an accord and drawing up national policies on the matter. There were no “fixed positions,” he said, expressing optimism that countries will eventually “come around.”

An agreement could be built around legislation in more than 120 countries — including European Union member states and nearly three dozen African countries — that restricts or bans single-use plastics. But some countries are hesitant: For example, Japan has expressed opposition to a binding deal — preferring a voluntary solution — and the United States has resisted calls for a ban on single-use plastics.

“There was no illusion that this would be a piece of cake,” Boachie said.

Jerri-Lynn here. No, no piece of cake. One can’t say these talks are going nowhere, but where ever they’re going, it’s at a snail’s pace.

I found this news out of Geneva to be profoundly depressing – especially the resistance from the U.S. and Japan to ban single use plastics.

Yet recent plastics news out of Moscow and London is marginally more encouraging – although unfortunately, the scope and timing also doesn’t respond to the urgency of the situation. Per The Moscow Times, Russia to Fully Ban Single-Use Plastic Products By 2024 – Minister:

Russia plans to ban the use of disposable plastics by 2024, Natural Resources and Environment Minister Alexander Kozlov said Thursday.

Banned goods would include disposable plastic straws, plates, glasses, lids and appliances; coffee capsules; cotton swabs; opaque and colored PET (thermoplastic polyester) bottles; boxes and packs for tobacco products; blister packaging (except for medicines); egg cartons; and several types of bags.

“We’re proposing to introduce the ban gradually so production can be reorganized. In 2024, the ban should be final,” the state-run TASS news agency quoted Kozlov as saying on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

Kozlov said his ministry and the Industry and Trade Ministry are coordinating on the list of 28 disposable plastic products that would fall under the ban

He also suggested finding alternatives to single-use plastics such as packaging made from natural materials like wood or paper.

“We suggest replacing opaque plastic bottles with transparent ones that are easy to recycle. Disposable plates can be made from pulp cartons; straws can be made of wood or replaced with special paper ones. All these technologies exist and are already being used,” Kozlov said.

In May, Deputy Prime Minister Viktoria Abramchenko said the government plans to impose a legislative ban on certain types of plastic products, including straws, cotton swabs and disposable tableware.

The UK has moved forward with a more modest ban, on single use plastic cutlery, according to the BBC, Government to ban single-use plastic cutlery:

The government has announced plans to ban single-use plastic cutlery, plates and polystyrene cups in England as part of what it calls a “war on plastic”.

Ministers said the move would help to reduce litter and cut the amount of plastic waste in oceans.

A consultation on the policy will launch in the autumn – although the government has not ruled out including other items in the ban.

But environmental activists said more urgent and wider action was needed.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already have plans to ban single-use plastic cutlery, and the European Union brought in a similar ban in July – putting ministers in England under pressure to take similar action.

On average, each person in England uses 18 single-use plastic plates and 37 single-use plastic items of cutlery every year, according to government figures.

I understand that banning single use plastics is only a first step towards slowing the plastics juggernaut. Perhaps it’s mere virtue signalling. I prefer to think of it as plucking low-hanging fruit. Yet even this limited measure won’t be enacted immediately. Per the BBC:

But the ban may take over a year to become law, with legislation needing to go through Parliament, and it is understood it could be April 2023 before it comes into force.

Jo Morley, from the campaign group City to Sea, told the BBC she welcomed the news but it was “just the tip of the iceberg”.

She added: “We need the government to go much, much, much further, we are facing a plastics crisis and we need to turn off the tap.

“We are really facing an environmental crisis, our oceans are full of plastic, and they’re killing marine life, they are damaging our eco-systems and they are actually threatening human health.”

Kierra Box from Friends of the Earth echoed the concerns.

She said: “We need government to take an overall approach to say that what we are going to do is bring an end to all plastic pollution, and what we’re going to do is drastically reduce the amount of all single-use products, not just a fork followed by a spoon followed by a cup.”

A far, far more difficult challenge than adopting these single use plastics bans would be eliminating – or at least drastically curtailing – the use of unnecessary plastics packaging. I’m old enough to remember  a world where everything wasn’t swathed in superfluous plastic. I also remember quite clearly my high School English teacher, Mr. Gordon Muir, lamenting the waste in fast food packaging when the first McDonald’s opened in Newton, NJ, in the mid-1970s.

We lived without plastic packaging before. And we can do so again. Some companies are already showing how. Others would no doubt follow if governments were to ban most plastics packaging – or to make users of plastic packaging responsible for its disposal.

Allow me to close with an anecdote. Last week, I ordered some canning jars from Weck. I like Weck Jars. They secure their glass lids via removable clips. The advantage of this system is that it allows the user to place jar and lid in the dishwasher, without corroding the fasteners.

Anyway, when I opened the large box containing the jars, I was pleased with what I saw. Weck packs its jars inside cardboard boxes, 6 or 12 jars to the box (depending on the size of the jar), and these boxes are then surrounded by corrugated cardboard and placed inside the larger shipping box. The cardboard cushions the contents against jostling in transit. Alas, this system still produces waste. But at least it’s not plastics waste. And I can’t think of a better way of shipping fragile glass containers. I’ve stopped introducing any new plastic into my kitchen; Weck jars are also useful for storing leftovers.

So, Weck’s packaging system shows what can be done if a company decides to eschew plastic packaging. And if their system works to protect fragile glass jars, it could be more widely applied to other products.

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  1. SD

    How do you switch something like laundry detergent? Glass? That adds weight in shipping. Also, couldn’t you tax it instead of ban it and let the companies sort out which applications it was essential for?

      1. SD2

        Powdered works differently, but let’s assume it could be advanced to work the same. How are we handling something like the beverage industry? Everything to aluminum or glass? Are we prioritizing reducing plastic waste over reducing emissions?

          1. John Zelnicker

            IIRC, aluminum is the most cost efficient recyclable relative to the cost of making it from raw materials.

            Converting bauxite to aluminum takes an order of magnitude more energy (electricity) than melting down existing aluminum for re-use.

        1. Vandemonian

          When I was a Boy Scout (50-odd years ago) we raised money for the troop by collecting beer bottles and returning them to the local brewery for the deposit. Nice little earner. Very few of the bottles we collected were from another town’s brewery. The brewery washed and steam sterilised their bottles for re-use.

          The same with milk, which was delivered in glass bottles. We left out washed empties to let the milkman know how many pints we wanted.

          Cordial (soda) bottles were returned for re-use as well.

          The ‘beverage industry’ of which you speak is a relatively recent invention. Boags is now owned by Lion (a Kirin subsidiary), Bakers Milk was bought out by a bigger company, and Abbott’s Cordial started bottling Coca Cola under licence, and was then taken over and disappeared.

          Local production and distribution is still an option, and makes the re-use of containers much easier, with a much lower carbon footprint.

          1. Ian Perkins

            Many kids in the UK used to collect returnable glass bottles fifty years ago, with no prompting from the Boy Scouts or anyone else!

          2. Carla

            Many states in the ‘ole U.S. of A. continue to operate very effective bottle deposit programs for glass AND plastic bottles, as well as aluminum cans. Massachusetts is one of them. California has a much less effective program.

            In my state of Ohio, such relatively enlightened programs are eschewed, in favor of littering the streetscapes and countryside with the damned things.

            But of course we need to phase out plastic bottles and packaging last century.

            THANK YOU, Jeri-Lynn for your faithful attention to the issue of plastic waste, AND for the recommendation of Weck canning jars, which I had never heard of. Now I see there’s a whole new (old) world out there. For those of us who may want to order some, here’s their site:


            1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

              Thanks for repeating this link. Clicking on my first reference to Weck in my post also takes you to the company website.

              1. lyman alpha blob

                I have bookmarked the jar link too – thank you very much for that! You mentioned you use them for canning – do they work as well or better than canning with metal lids? And can you use them with a water bath canner or do you need to use a different method? I have a Ball water bath canner and just wondering if it would be compatible with those jars.

                1. Jerri-Lynn Scofield Post author

                  I don’t actually use them for canning but have used them to ferment fruits and vegetables. I’ve had great success with turnips, fennel, beets, radishes, carrots, green and wax beans, cucumbers, kale, various types of cabbages, different types of citrus fruits, blueberries, jalapeño peppers, various other peppers, celeriac, cauliflower, and cherry tomatoes. Most things I cover with a 4% salt solution and I’ve experimented with different spice pastes and herbs and aromatics.

                  Most things take about a week. Cucumber kimchi takes only a day. Preserved lemons about a month.

                  The advantage compared to Ball jars is that the glass tops don’t corrode or rust. And the two metal fasteners that secure the lid sit outside the jar, away from the brine.

          3. Sierra7

            The object of consumerism is to supposedly make that process easier and easier with no effort by the consumer to dispose of the by-products. Of course consumers are not supposed to think about “disposal”. Therefore no responsibility on the consumer. That’s the major problem.
            Convenience, convenience, convenience whatever the outcome.
            “Modern” consumerism is always an illusion.
            “Single-use” plastic packaging should be stopped.
            We are fouling our nests.
            Mother Nature will eventually intervene and give humanity a spanking.
            Nothing will change until the majority of “consumers” push back with strong environmental laws that curb the outright waste we exemplify with our consumer style and outrageous demands for

            1. Ian Perkins

              I think the object of consumerism was to stimulate the economy. The term appears to have originated in the 1940s; prior to that, the USA was populated by citizens, not consumers. Making the consumer’s life easier was part of the marketing, not the original object, and the waste was intentional, at least according to Vance Packard, designed to increase production.

              1. Jeanette

                Have you seen this early environmental movement website which has inspired hundreds of imitators and educated an entire generation?

                “This site details methods that you can use to help defeat consumerism, save money, work less and lead a more satisfying and environmentally benign life while you help to restore the economic self-sufficiency of your community. ”


            2. drumlin woodchuckles

              I remember when “consumerism” used to mean what Ralph Nader meant by “consumer rights”.

              What is now being called consumerism would better be called consumptionism, but too many people think consumerism means consumptionism to change it back now.

        2. BillS

          The old glass Coke bottles were an icon in the past. Indestructible and masterpieces of early industrial design. Beer bottles are also easily reused. Belgium’s famous breweries all reuse their bottles (10c return bounty on each bottle).

          My pet peeve is bottled water..all in plastic bottles, which people invariably throw out of the windows of their cars or leave around the parks, etc. They are found everywhere. That is not to mention the ugly behavior of water companies sucking water out of their communities at next to no cost and marking it up 100x, telling all the suckers out there that their tap-water in a bottle has magic health properties.

          All single use plastic packaging should be (and can be) banned. I also can remember when everything was packaged in either glass, paper, metal, cardboard or sold in bulk. All durable (multiuse) plastic items should be made in such a way as to be repairable and, at end of life, recycled in a straightforward manner.

          1. Oh

            It really irks me to see plastic bottles of water being used, one per person at a meeting when all they have to do is supply glasses for drinking and a jug of nice, clean, cold water. It almost seems like they’re promoting the use of bottled water!

            1. Ian Perkins

              The local Ministry of Environment held a party, sorry, a meeting, in a National Park not so long ago. And what do you think they left? A mountain of trash, much of it plastic water bottles – which at the very least they could have loaded into their huge 4x4s and taken back to the city, where scavengers would have picked it over for anything recyclable, including PET bottles.

      2. Alice X

        Wear your clothes for at least six times, or more. Hang them to air out in between. Don’t just throw them in the hamper after one use. There are simple remedies against our ecological distress, though obviously not complete.


      3. Howard Beale IV

        That’s what I do here – big old box of Tide HE detergent powder. Heck, I even use powdered chlorine tablets that’s smaller than the gallon jugs you buy-alas, no paper container, tho. I try to buy powered washing supplies wherever possible.

    1. vlade

      There are fill-your-own shops, where you can bring your own container to buy a laundry detergent. I believe in the US, Costco has a refill stations.

      Some brands actively support having refill stations

      Whether you reuse plastic or glass container is then up to you, as long as you reuse a container.

      1. Howard Beale IV

        Haven’t seen that at my Costco stores here in the states – self-filled RO water jugs, OTOH, are pretty prevalent. I could never see myself buying water in plastics bottles, and I’m surprised that people do, if they really knew how that water is sourced.

    2. Polar Socialist

      We’re using liquid detergent, packed in a PE-HD plastic bottle that is recyclable. We also recycle metal, cartons and paper, be they containers or other trash.

      That naturally requires several infrastructures to be in place for recycling, not just labeling plastic bottles as recyclable.

    3. lyman alpha blob

      If you can’t just use powdered detergent in a cardboard box, there is already liquid detergent you can buy in a cardboard container. We use this – https://www.seventhgeneration.com/concentrated-laundry-detergent-free-clear

      Not perfect – the cap is still plastic. And if you look at their website, the majority of their liquid products are still packaged in plastic bottles even though they clearly have the means to do otherwise.

      This isn’t rocket science. We got by without plastics until the last few decades and we can do it again. It’s just a matter of sacrificing a very small amount of convenience for a habitable planet. I think a few more broken mayonnaise jars is worth it.

    1. Howard Beale IV

      I looked at the site – nice, but horribly expensive on a cost per wash basis. And how well do they actually perform when compared to the name brands?

    2. Carla

      I love this idea and may try them. For me, the key is how well they clean a load of washing. I’m willing to pay more for the sake of the environment, but not at the cost of dirty clothes.

  2. Alice X

    Ban all plastic single use production. —— Make all food production local (labor intensive). Go to your local food Co-op & deli and buy your food spooned out by your deli person (labor intensive), into your personal non-plastic bucket. That would be my world, but I tend to dream alot. O wait… that was two centuries ago…Nevermind!

  3. Ian Perkins

    Clothing may be much more of a problem than single-use plastics (though some fast fashion appears to be single use, or even zero use, in practice). What the solution is I don’t know, other than ceasing to have wardrobes overflowing with stuff when just a few clothes would suffice, as they used to for many people until fairly recently. Switching to cotton without reducing the volume of garments produced would require vast amounts of land, not to mention water, fertilisers, pesticides and so on.

    Most people think that plastic items such as water bottles, plates, cups, glasses, dishes, bowls and containers used in homes, restaurants, events and schools would be responsible for the majority of plastic waste in the United States. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these items only accounted for roughly 1 million tons, or 0.4 percent of all municipal solid waste in 2018. In comparison, the amount of clothes and shoes that same year added up to 13 million tons, or 4.4 percent of all municipal solid waste.

    Even more alarming is that the amount of clothing and footwear recycled in 2018 was only 1.7 million tons, meaning that just 13 percent was actually recycled. The amount of clothing Americans throw out every year has doubled in the last 20 years, from 7 million to 14 million tons.

    … Additionally, whenever we wash clothes in a machine, thousands of synthetic plastic microfibers leach into the water supply from sewage to rivers and oceans. These tiny microfibers end up back into our food supply, getting ingested by humans and wildlife.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The whole-society-level omni-forcefield approach to this problem might be a Full Metal Hansen FeeTax-Dividend against fossil carbon levied at the point of first sale, with every seller/re-seller/user totally permitted to pass the price of the FeeTax along in the price.

      The FeeTax would be raised to exterminative levels, high enough to exterminate Fast Fashion just by price alone, for example.

  4. Rod

    We all are gyrating and contorting to the whims of a rapacious Marketing and Industrial System built around the most profitable way of Mass Consumption for that system.
    It doesn’t care—future be damned—and is enabled by populations taught not to care, too disempowered to care, or to ignore caring for convenience.
    Groomed for consumption, deliberately, in the face of a smothering plastic onslaught, is the salt on my wound and a slap in my face.
    Our voice needs to sound like this:

    Howard Beale: I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!
    Howard Beale: I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!

  5. LawnDart

    Massive greenwash about the recyclability of plastics is funded by the oil and gas industries.

    Recycling works, but as-is, not so much (very little) for used consumer plastic material: plastic that doesn’t end up in waterways or landfills is often burned for energy.

    We all live downwind.

  6. lyman alpha blob

    Some good news – as of a couple months ago Maine banned single use plastic bags – woo hoo!

    Stores had been promoting reusable bags for a while any many people had already adopted them, until the pandemic came along and the plastics lobby, not wanting a good crisis to go to waste and looking to capitalize on the early fears, convinced businesses that we were all going to die miserable deaths from the rona if we couldn’t keep using single use plastics: https://www.wastedive.com/news/plastic-bags-covid-19-coronavirus-reusable-ban-suspension-california-massachusetts/579019/ In Maine you weren’t allowed to use the reusable bags at all for a while and they disappeared from stores.

    Now they’re back and the single use bags have been banished, hopefully for good. The checkout people ask if you’re OK with paper now and the first time it happened I told the Gen Z cashier that I’m so old I remember when there wasn’t anything else and I’m thrilled the plastic is gone. It did take a minute to get used to the old custom again – as I turned away to leave the store I nonchalantly grabbed the bag by the top and it started to tear. I almost lost my groceries until I remembered to carry from the bottom and everything made it home intact!

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