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Rustle talks, polluter pays

A blog post by Rustle

The folk at #TeamKSB affectionately know me as Rustle. I’m a sweetie wrapper costume, used for photo shoots, borrowed for school and community visits and at other times on display in the office. My purpose - to highlight the impact of littering behaviour and to make people smile.

Normally I am a fun character, dancing, singing, high-fiving people, but the rejection I, as a piece of single-use plastic packaging, feel has made me want to tell you a bit more about forthcoming regulations that could help us tackle the litter emergency.

Here I go…….

You need me. You love my contents, my many flavour options, but you discard me without a thought….  

I watch with interest as you sometimes chuck my friends in the bin, or hide them in a bush, out of sight out of mind. What I don’t understand is why you don’t value me……

I keep your sweet treats clean and protected, I’m bright and cheery, I do my best to serve.

But, the producers that make me haven’t managed to address my sustainability, and you as a consumer haven’t worked out what to do with me.

Some people do try to do the right thing – making me from products that break down, putting me in the bin or repurposing me for a craft project. 

But generally, I’m just not good for our planet. I’m normally made of plastic. Yet I’m forgotten when it comes to recycling, often slightly sticky and icky. 

I’m not a drinks can or bottle or something which can be recycled easily at your back door with your household recycling, or popped in one of these segregated bins you find at railway stations on our streets to make recycling on-the-go easier. I can’t easily be collected and given a second life as a new recycled product.

Single-use packaging litter, like me, is a growing problem as part of our litter stream too. The surveys Keep Scotland Beautiful did last year highlight that packaging litter is recorded on up to 66% of our streets.

And volunteers collecting data recently, as part of the award-winning Upstream Battle® campaign, uncovered some worrying trends – revealing that plastic snack packs, like me, were the third most recorded litter item found beside our waterways.

For years #TeamKSB collected soft packaging at our office and sent it back for recycling with Terracycle, but it isn’t easy, and it is difficult for people to know what I am made of – so I’m often tarnished with being unrecyclable. I can’t easily help with the ambition for Scotland to become a circular economy.

So there needs to be a different solution for me, I think. I have to admit, I probably need to be re-designed as a product. I need to be made of a new innovative material, or I need the people that make me to help pay to ensure I’m not littered, and if I am, that there is a budget to clean me up.

Until then, I need people to think about what they do with me and my friends after they have enjoyed the treat I protect – I need them to bin me at the very least.

Those officially responsible for removing me from our environment after I am dropped by thoughtless people, need support financially. Local authorities already spend more than £1million a week clearing litter, and I’m part of that cost. We know there isn’t enough money in budgets to provide behaviour change education and clear litter from all land where it is dropped. But there are opportunities ahead.

While sitting quietly in the corner of the #TeamKSB Hub I’ve heard exciting things – there are policies and regulations being brought forward which have the potential to make producers financially responsible for single-use packaging that ends up as litter on the ground and for them to take responsibility to stop it getting there in the first place including redesigning packaging to make it more sustainable and fit for a circular economy. 

The possibility of forthcoming Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations excite me. Currently, they offer a meaningful chance to tackle the root causes of many environmental problems by adopting the polluter pays principle - shifting the cost of pollution onto those who place large amounts of packaging on the market. Additionally, it has been proposed under the forthcoming EPR system in Scotland and Wales, that packaging producers will be fully held to account for their products that become litter dropped on the ground and placed in bins.

This money could provide additional funds for litter prevention, bins and waste management.

Sadly, there are rumours that the proposal for ground litter to be included might be removed, it isn’t part of English proposals for example. So, #TeamKSB has been talking about gathering a bigger evidence and data set to capture the scale of the issue me and my friends are responsible for.

What I need now is people, like you, to tell my friends at #TeamKSB and I how much single-use packaging is littering our parks, beaches, riversides and open spaces. Without the data we can’t provide the evidence we need to ensure that those that put the packaging on the market take responsibility for paying to help clear it up.

Please carry out a quick and easy survey and submit data to us to help reduce packaging litter in your community. 

Help to make my journey from shiny product to dirty litter item a thing of the past.

Download a survey form now to help play your part!

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