Why can’t we just ban all plastic packaging?


Banning all plastic packaging doesn’t solve the plastic problem. The problem is when plastic ends up as litter in our oceans, where it causes harm to the environment or in landfill where its value is lost. The way to stop this is to reduce, re-use and recycle plastics.

tomatoes in plastic packaging

When plastic may be the best option

Plastic packaging protects food against damage and helps extend its shelf life – helping to prevent food waste. This is crucial because if food waste was a country it would be the third biggest carbon emitter in the world. Plastic packaging also helps food and goods meet safety and hygiene standards.

Plastic packaging can be a good choice in lots of situations:

  • it provides an air, water and hygiene-tight barrier for perishable and easily-damaged goods, which helps prolong shelf life and reduce waste (food waste is a huge contributor to carbon emissions, so this is important in the fight against climate change)
  • it weighs less than some alternatives, which reduces transport needs, which in turn reduces carbon emissions
  • it helps comply with safety and hygiene standards and protect the products we buy e.g. medicines or hazardous products
  • it’s durable, it won’t smash like glass or disintegrate like paper
  • protects the products it packages
  • its’s easy to print information onto, such as food labels and allergy information
  • it can be moulded into any shape e.g. milk bottle handles, which makes it easy to use
Reducing, re-using and recycling plastic

Unnecessary and problematic plastics are already being reduced and/or replaced by alternatives – items like plastic straws and disposable plastic cutlery. This is being driven by The UK Plastics Pact, a collaborative initiative that brings together businesses, UK governments and NGOs to create a circular economy for plastics.

We all have a role to play in reducing plastic pollution. Reducing, re-using and recycling means we keep plastic in use, where it has value, rather than throwing it away and causing damage to the environment.

To find out more about what to recycle where you live, visit