A new poll has revealed that 85 per cent of Brits believe that food packaging should be compostable amid concerns over the levels of plastic waste disposed of during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The Populus poll commissioned by BBIA member TIPA found that the vast majority of those polled wanted food packaging to be compostable, with 67 per cent of respondents declaring they were concerned at levels of plastic waste generation during lockdown.

58 per cent of those surveyed revealed they would be willing to pay more for food wrapped in compostable packaging, with 69 per cent of respondents believing that the food industry should take the lead on reducing plastic usage in packaging.

Despite public desire to see more compostable packaging, compostable packaging is to be treated in the same way as conventional single-use plastic in the government’s new Plastic Packaging Tax, which will place a charge of £200 per tonne of plastic packaging that contains less than 30 per cent recycled content.

Daphna Nissenbaum, CEO and co-founder of TIPA, said: “The vast majority of UK consumers are concerned about increased plastic waste, and they are looking to the food industry and the government to empower them to buy sustainable alternatives, even if it costs more.

“While conventional plastics continue to endanger our oceans, wildlife, natural areas, and our health; compostable packaging can fully degrade and return to the earth safely. Despite crucial differences in the materials, compostables continue to be treated the same way as conventional plastic by UK legislation. A plastics tax which makes no distinction between the two will have a perverse effect, actively undermining efforts to shift toward compostable materials.

“The tax and the coming Environment Bill are both prime opportunities to support innovative, environmentally-friendly materials, but at the moment the UK government is missing the boat.

“Now is the time for decision-makers to show leadership, and encourage compostable packaging for the sake of the natural environment.”

David Newman, Managing Director of the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association, added: “The government wants councils across the country to collect food waste from 2023, but the success of these schemes depends on keeping conventional plastics out of food bins, and out of the soil.  The best way to do this is to ensure that compostable materials are used in food packaging, and in food waste bin liners, so that food and packaging can break down safely together.

“We know the UK is heavily polluting its food systems with (micro) plastics, and compostables can help stop this. We have a huge composting industry in the UK capable of treating these materials and already doing so in many places.

“Ministers should urgently recognise the role of compostable packaging in reducing non-recyclable plastic waste, by encouraging collection of compostable packaging with food so that materials like film can be safely and effectively composted.”