Those who grew up in the 90s would have heard Aqua singing this song incessantly so I already apologise if it is now lodged in your brain for the rest of the week,
Plastic is indeed fantastic and its invention has changed the world we live in. But plastic has, as Tim Harford wrote (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41188462), become a victim of its own success and the UK Government seems to acknowledge this.
In this year's budget the Chancellor announced that the Government will seek views on reducing single-use plastics waste (think: coffee cups and polystyrene takeaway boxes). One of the solutions offered is the introduction of a new tax and/or charges system (similar to the one introduced for single-use carrier bags). The Government says that the introduction of the 5p charge has reduced the use of plastic bags by 80% in the last two years. That may well be the case, especially as recently supermarkets (like Tesco) have started offering customers only the bag-for-life option at a higher charge, making consumers think before opting for a bag.
But introducing a new charge is not the only option. Encouraging the use of alternatives to plastic, such as the use of "cartonboard" and other biodegradable material would be another viable option. Of course this will not be suitable for all the products and/or industries but it would be an alternative that the groceries and supermarkets' industry could actively consider. New entrants would have a competitive advantage with more savvy consumers, who put sustainability on their shopping list.
Measures need to be put in place to encourage the use of more sustainable materials. Taxation is one option and this was highly effective when the 5p charge was applied to plastic bags. Alternatively, finding ways to encourage the use of more sustainable materials could also see brands reducing the amount of plastic packaging they use. A quick glance through a supermarket highlights many brands that use plastic packaging when they could turn to more sustainable materials. Take a look at some brands of tea bags, batteries, multipack drinks and stationery, not to mention lots of food products, all of which could be packaged in biodegradable or recyclable alternatives to plastic. The opportunity to achieve quick results and make a significant difference is huge.