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Last month, the NFRN published a survey to Northern Ireland members concerning the upcoming Government consultation about the reduction in the use of single-use plastics within the retail industry.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) published the consultation on proposals for the reduction of the usage of single-use plastic beverage cups and food containers in Northern Ireland. In the consultation, the department suggested three options for plastic items: an outright ban; a levy along the lines of the Carrier Bag Levy; and a voluntary reduction approach.

The survey results were used for the consultation response, submitted to DAERA on December 17, 2021. The NFRN found that only 40 per cent of members had the ability to switch to using single-use plastic cups, but the majority could welcome the changes if phased in within twelve months. The NFRN specified that changes should be mandatory to all types of plastic food containers, to help level the playing field with both supermarkets and independent retailers. However, the NFRN understands that some plastics, such as plastic lined products, are more difficult to recycle than standard plastic containers, incurring a higher cost.

Sixty per cent of members would support a voluntary ban on single-use plastics, and the preferred levy, if introduced, should be set between 10 pence to 25 pence. If a voluntary scheme is implemented, this allows members and other retailers to act in accordance with their individual circumstances. The NFRN also specified the importance to ensure if a levy is implemented, that this is done in a way that minimises the administrative burden on retailers that are already busy running their businesses.

The NFRN understands the goal of the policy is to reduce the use of single-use plastics, and to encourage more sustainable alternatives but we must recognise that the change will incur many difficult changes and costs to our members. The results of the consultation will be published in the coming weeks.

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