Plastic reduction in Manchester

By Ffion Roberts on 25.01.18

Residents of Greater Manchester are key to recycling and reducing waste!  The Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority want, with the help of residents and partners, to be recycling well over 50% and diverting at least 85% of waste from landfill from this year.   This is an issue for us all and recycling and reducing plastics is an important part of this.


As widely reported recently, there has been a significant increase in the amount of plastic used (e.g. for packaging, such as food) during the past decade.  Alongside this, China who leads on plastic recycling, has stopped importing waste leaving millions of tonnes of plastic building up at recycling plants around the UK.  This issue of plastic waste polluting our oceans was also strongly made by David Attenborough in the recent Blue Planet II series.  This exposure was met by a torrent of horrified responses including from UK environment secretary Michael Gove, who admitted he had been “haunted” by the images of the damage being done.  These and other factors have led to searching questions being raised about what to do with our plastic waste and how to reduce the amount being produced in the first place. 


In response to these deepening concerns, several places in Manchester have already decided to tackle the issue head on.  In Prestwich, the Village Greens Community Co-op provides loose (unpackaged) foods, fruit and veg and more.  The Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton also sells a significant amount of unpackaged fruit and veg and other staples in ‘degradable’ packaging.  The University of Manchester encourages the use of reusable mugs for takeaway drinks and soup to help reduce the use of plastic.  Another strategy they have adopted on campus is offering a 20p discount on all drinks and soup where a reusable mug is used. This is alongside using compostable cups, containers and cutlery in all their food outlets and encouraging the refilling of water bottles by having numerous water coolers across the campus.  Manchester’s nightclub 42’s has introduced a 10p charge for straws which has reduced straw usage by an estimated 95%.  The club is planning to go further by replacing plastic straws with vegetable straws - even better for the environment. Emerge, a Manchester sustainable waste management company, have put the important 3Rs: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle at the heart of everything they do.


In early January 2018, the Prime Minister Theresa May declared a “war on plastic”.  The Government has published proposed policies including plastics-free aisles in supermarkets.  Although early days, some plastic-free stores are already popping up around the UK in places such as Torquay.  This is helpful in showing the big brands how to do it.   Indeed, drastic action needs to be taken by supermarkets make a larger scale impact.   We must all play our part too by reducing what we use.