Transition Town Hastirngs (TTH) is about to launch a project to encourage and support local food takeaway businesses to make the transition to sustainable, e n v i r o n m e n t a l l y – f r i e n d l y packaging.

There are several businesses in Hastings, who are already using biodegradable packaging, including Trinity Whole Foods, Café Des Arts and Eat @ (including the Stade and Alexander Park Cafe). The good news is that these businesses report that the transition was made fairly seamlessly and at no extra cost.

There are several well established eco-companies making these products – biodegradable packaging such as Bio-plastics, plant starch packaging, sugar Bagasse packaging and mycelium mushroom packaging (see footnote).

TTH members are currently drawing up a questionnaire to present to local businesses, with some information about e n v i r o n m e n t a l l y – f r i e n d l y packaging and its cost-effectiveness, and they are hopeful that Hastings businesses will be open to this change.

They are also hoping to present an ‘affinity scheme’ to the packaging manufacturers, whereby they get several businesses on board and
then arrange for appropriate price discounts with the manufacturers.

In addition, TTH are hoping to initiate conversations with Hastings Borough Council to adopt these successful schemes, as they are
relatively easy and cost little to implement, and will have a highly significant effect on helping to protect marine life and keeping our beaches clean.

Alongside this will be a campaign to deal with the major problem of plastic bottles, cans and other single use drink containers.
Living, as we do, close to the sea, we see how much plastic and other waste is washed into the sea, and
we see in the media how badly beaches are affected all around the world.

In England, 35 million plastic bottles are used every day, of which only approximately half are recycled. Every year, 18 tonnes of plastic ends up in the seas, equivalent to five grocery bags for every foot of coastline around the globe.

This is having a catastrophic effect upon marine life as well as on human health.

A recent United Nations report stated that the current levels of plastic debris and plastic particles in the world’s oceans “presents a
serious threat to human health and marine ecosystems”.

The Ellen MacArthur foundation report, launched at the World Economic Forum recently, said: “by 2015 there will be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the ocean”.

At the 2015 great British beach clean-up, over 100 plastic bottles were found for every kilometre. A 43% rise from the previous year!
The amount of rubbish on the beaches was the worst on record, with 3298 items picked up per kilometre surveyed.

A spokesman for the Marine Conservation Society said: “it’s a damning indictment that the current legislation to stop litter reaching the sea isn’t working… From public litter to industrialwaste, fishing litter to fly tipping, this problem belongs to us all. So, it can be fixed”.

Because of the worsening situation, many environmental groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have called this
year for the introduction of deposit return schemes (DRS).

Caroline Lucas of the Green Party presented a motion to the House of Commons proposing such a scheme be introduced as part of the National Litter Strategy. She quoted the recent success of the mandatory charge on plastic bags that has reduced bag distribution by 6 billion.

Evidence from other countries also strongly supports a move to DRS, as well as a re-usable bottle scheme.

11 countries in Europe and several regions of America and Australia have adopted these schemes, with dramatic results. For example, in Germany the DRS initiative has resulted in an amazing reduction of plastic bottles by 98.5% and aluminium drink containers by 96%! Also, reusable bottles make up 45.7% of all the drinks sold in Germany.

Ultimately it will also help to stem the dramatic rise in the production of plastics that now accounts for 20% of fossil fuel consumption.

■ If you are interested in helping Transition Town or finding out more about their work, please go to the website at: www.
transitiontownhastings.org.uk Or you can email them at: info@transitiontownhastings.org.uk

Footnote

Bioplastic, unlike finite oil-based plastics that take millions of years to form and hundreds of years to degrade, can be commercially composted within 12 weeks. Plant Starch packaging is made from renewable crops, such as corn or potatoes. It composts naturally. Sugar Bagasse packaging is the waste product from sugar cane once it has been harvested. The fibrous material is a renewable resource that is ideal as hot food containers and is naturally compostable. Mycelium mushroom packaging was developed by the American firm Evocative. This remarkable technique allows bespoke packaging to be moulded. IKEA is planning to replace polystyrene packaging, that takes thousands of years to decompose, with mycelium packaging, which only takes a few weeks. Several large businesses in New York are already using this kind of packaging, including Dell computers.