Around 60% of NFRN Northern Ireland retailers say they would support a voluntary ban on single-use plastics, according to a survey conducted by the trade group last month.
The survey formed part of the NFRN’s response to the The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (DAERA) consultation on tackling single-use plastics, such as cups and food containers.
The consultation presented three options for tackling single-use plastics, including a total ban, a levy – similar to the plastic-bag levy – and a voluntary reduction approach.
Commenting on the potential ban and levy, NFRN member Judith Mercer, of Spar Greenway in Belfast, told betterRetailing: “As environmentalists, I have to say it is a good thing to attempt to reduce the amount of plastic being used. However, as a retailer, paper is not a great alternative to plastic.
“It will be tough as we will have to come up with an alternative to plastic, which may cause issues, as customers tend not to like the paper packaging,” she said.
Eugene Diamond, of Diamond’s Newsagents in Ballymena, County Antrim, added: “Reduction of plastic has been embraced by other parts of the industry, so I think retailers will step up to reduce their overall plastic consumption if a levy or law is implemented.”
NFRN Northern Ireland district president Joe Archibald told betterRetailing there are retailers in Northern Ireland who are still unaware of the potential ban on single-use plastic.
The survey conducted by the NFRN found that only 40% of members had the ability to quickly switch to using single-use plastic cups, but the majority would welcome the changes if phased in within 12 months.
The NFRN proposed that any potential levy should be set between 10p and 25p. In its consultation response, the federation also called for any policy introduced to be the same for all retailers, regardless of size. It suggested any levy should also place a low “administrative burden” on retailers.
While supporting the plastic-reduction drive, the NFRN said: “We must recognise that the change will incur many difficult changes and costs to our members.”
The consultation proposal highlighted that, in Northern Ireland, more than 70 million single-use plastic cups and around 150 million single-use plastic takeaway food containers are discarded.
DAERA minister Edwin Poots confirmed he was working with the UK government on plans for the collection of “used plastics through proposed reform to extended producer responsibility and the creation of a deposit return scheme”.
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