North Yorkshire County Council’s executive agreed rather than delay plastic-cutting initiatives until a detailed action plan could be developed, the authority would put in place some “quick wins”, such as awareness campaigns, and then develop them further.
The authority’s leaders had heard the conclusions of a comprehensive inquiry led by Councillor David Goode, who told them Covid-19 had led to “a massive but unavoidable increase in the use of single use plastic”.
Environmentalists have pointed towards a rise in litter, especially of single-use plastic such as bottles and single-use masks which contain plastic and cannot be recycled, since the start of the pandemic.
It has been forecast that the resurgence of single-use plastics will continue this year, with high demand for protective items and heavily packaged products and food for hygiene purposes, and increased use of plastics in hospitals and public facilities.
Coun Goode told the executive: “Hopefully this is a relatively short-term issue and should not be considered an excuse for now taking action now.”
He said the inquiry had recognised that eliminating single use plastic would be impossible at the moment, but actions could be taken to significantly reduced the amount being used.
However, the inquiry’s reported concluded the pandemic should not be a reason though to row back on commitments to reduce single-use plastics overall.
It highlighted how the World Economic Forum had noted Covid-19 was a known risk that policymakers chose to ignore and other well-known threats should not remain unaddressed.
The report stated: “The legacy of the pandemic is more not less reason to act in reducing single-use plastics, especially in light of the massive expansion of its use and all the related pollution that that has entailed.”
Coun Goode told the executive the inquiry had found while the county council had an aspiration to show leadership in tackling single use plastics, it had fallen behind numerous local authorities in introducing measures to do so.
He said: “It quickly became clear that a number of other councils were well ahead of North Yorkshire County Council in developing strategies to reduce their use and dependence on single use plastics.”
While the inquiry found the authority had made some progress, there was a consensus that the council could do more.
The authority’s open to business executive member Councillor Andrew Lee said he aimed to implement all the report’s 16 recommendations.