April 26, 2018 / 7:29 PM / 3 months ago

People 'suicidally careless' with planet – UK minister Gove

LONDON, April 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - People can be "remarkably, suicidally careless" with the planet, British environment minister Michael Gove said on Thursday as he welcomed a major initiative to cut plastic pollution.

More than 40 companies, including Britain's biggest supermarkets, Coca Cola, Nestle and Procter & Gamble, have bowed to growing pressure to tackle pollution by committing to cut plastic use over the next seven years.

Signing up to the UK Plastics Pact, launched on Thursday by sustainability campaign group WRAP, they have pledged that 100 percent of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

"When we think about the plastic we throw away, there is no elsewhere, no other planet, where that rubbish goes," Gove said at the launch of the initiative in London.

He said it was "impossible" for the world to carry on using plastic as it has before, "or we risk there being more plastic in the sea than fish".

Eight million tonnes of plastic – bottles, packaging and other waste – enter the ocean every year, killing marine life and entering the human food chain, says the United Nations Environment Programme.

"The plastic packaging system is broken," said world record-breaking sailor Ellen MacArthur, whose UK-based foundation co-launched the initiative.

"Most packaging is not designed to be recycled, and as a result you have a lot of plastic leaking into the environment," she told the event.

The 42 Plastic Pact companies are responsible for over 80 percent of the plastic packaging on products sold through British supermarkets, according to WRAP.

"This is absolutely existential change," said Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at British retailer Marks & Spencer, which signed up to the initiative. (Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)

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