South Ribble sets target date to stop using throwaway plastic

The council is trying to cement its green credentials
The council is trying to cement its green credentials

Single-use plastics are set to be eradicated from the operation of South Ribble Borough Council by 2025.

The authority’s cabinet approved the plan at a meeting which also heard that a separate “challenging target” would be introduced to bring about an 85 percent reduction in their use within the next 18 months.

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As part of the overhaul of the way in which the council works, the borough’s businesses and residents will be encouraged to follow suit, with South Ribble “leading by example”, the meeting was told.

“I don’t think there is any councillor who doesn’t understand the damage that single-use plastics are causing to our oceans – it’s horrendous,” Labour council leader Paul Foster said.

“You may ask what difference the council can make – but if we start here, with our local authority friends and supply chain partners, then we will make a real difference.”

An internal audit of the volume and types of plastic which the authority is currently using will be completed by next June.

Conservative member Alan Ogilvie said that it would be vital to accurately establish the current position “so that the scheme has credibility”.

The council’s suppliers will be told that they have to remove single-use plastics from any work done on behalf of the council.

But the report also warns also warns of the potential for unintended consequences of switching to alternatives – and the need to consider the whole life cycle of products.

Members heard that compostable cups, while seemingly preferable to plastic variants, are only more environmentally friendly if they are allowed to break down properly and do not end up in landfill. Similarly, cotton bags have to be used more than 170 times before they will have had less impact on the environment than a plastic one.

Conservative former cabinet member Phil Smith wondered what kind of person would throw plastic into rivers and seas.

“I can’t imagine anybody in South Ribble would do that,” Cllr Smith said.

But Liberal Democrat leader David Howarth said that an annual river clean up in Penwortham yielded huge numbers of plastic bottles.

The measures to tackle single-use plastic are amongst the first to be taken since the council declared a climate emergency in July and pledged to make the borough carbon neutral within the next decade. A cross-party working group on climate change will oversee how the single-use plastic target is implemented and monitor progress.