Positive changes the UK has made in saving the environment

Today on twitter I came across this article about the catastrophic impact that plastic is having on our world, and in particular on our oceans. To be honest, it was incredibly depressing. So, feeling in need of a little positivity I thought I would write about a few of the really positive things that have happened in recent years in regards to plastic reduction. Just to remind us that it’s not all doom and gloom.

Plastic Bag Charge

In 2015 the UK government introduced the plastic bag charge, this meant that retailers had to charge you 5p if you wanted a plastic bag. A small action, that has had a really big impact. Plastic bag sales have reduced 86% in the big seven supermarkets since the charge was introduced. We now use around 19 plastic bags per year person, compared to 140 bags per year previously. A study by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science estimated that as a result of the charge there has been a 50% reduction in plastic bag marine litter. Which is great news for our sea life. There has recently been a proposal to extent the charge to 10p per plastic bag, this can only be a positive in helping reduce plastic waste even further.

Banning of Microbeads

Last year, a ban on products containing microbeads came into force in the UK. Microbeads are tiny bits of plastic often used as exfoliants in products such as face washes. These microbeads get washed down the drain and as a result end up in our oceans where they are deadly to marine life. One shower using a product with microbeads could result in 100,000 microbeads ending up in our ocean, so again this is a huge success for our sea life.

We are Increasingly Shifting to a Renewable Energy Grid

In 2010 renewables made up just 7% of UK electricity, and in 2016 that increased substantially to 25%. Wind power has become much cheaper in recent years, meaning that it is a more desirable option than un-environmentally friendly gas. The government backing smart grids and meters mean that it’s easier for consumers to choose the cleanest form of energy. These improvements mean a significant decrease in pollution.

Retailers Ditching Plastic Straws

Various food outlets have banned plastic straws recently. Including Pret, Whetherspoons, Wagamama’s and All Bar One. Check out my blog post ‘Should we be worried about Plastic Straws’ to find out more information abut why this is a small but positive action! Even fast food giant McDonald’s are set to replace plastic straws with paper one’s.

The general public are becoming more concerned with climate change and as a result there are a few more policies on the horizon:

The government is planning to ban plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds in a bid to save sea life and reduce waste.

There are plans for a deposit return scheme in which prices of plastic bottles will be increased and then refunded to you if you return the bottle, in the hopes to increase recycling.

The government is currently considering ways of using the tax system to reduce single-use waste.

M&S is trialling selling loose fruit and vegetables in order to decrease the amount of plastic packaging they are using.

Supermarkets are trialling a whole range of tactics to reduce their plastic waste, see here.


So, there are some positives in our fight to save the environment. However, I should note that I actually found less than I was expecting to when I set out with the idea for this post. Although steps are being made and we should celebrate this, there is so much more that needs to be done. We as citizens and consumers need to push the government and others to partake in actions that are going to benefit the environment, not destroy it.

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