A 'low plastic zone' has been unveiled today in London after three quarters of businesses in Islington 'successfully, and permanently reduced the single-use plastic they give to their customers'.
The Low Plastic Zone initiative aims to 'encourage and support local businesses of all sizes to reduce the amount of single-use plastic handed to customers'.
A UK-wide survey commissioned by the North London Waste Authority found 95% of consumers want 'local businesses to reduce their use of single-use plastic' and 83% have 'taken steps to reduce their own use'.
The Low Plastic Zone is in the Cowcross Street area of Islington.
Over the coming weeks key shopping areas within the seven north London boroughs of Haringey, Camden, Barnet, Enfield, Hackney and Waltham Forest are also expected to reach Low Plastic Zone status.
Chair of North London Waste Authority, Cllr Clyde Loakes, said: “Our research shows that the majority of people are trying hard to reduce their use of single-use plastic but are frustrated at how difficult it is to avoid when shopping or eating and drinking on-the-go.
17% have 'stopped buying a product because it wasn’t available without plastic packaging', 15% have 'switched from one local business to another' and 11% have 'travelled out of their way to use a lower-plastic firm'
"Reducing the amount of waste we all create, and single-use plastics in particular, is essential for helping tackle the climate emergency.
"North London Waste Authority is committed to helping residents and businesses do this.
“We know that businesses want to reduce their environmental impact, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for business.
"People are telling us that they are more likely to use companies who are taking action in this area so we are confident that this flagship initiative will be a win-win-win; for businesses, for consumers and of course, for the planet.”
The survey found 'UK shoppers are voting with their feet and choosing businesses that are taking action'.
It reported 17% have 'stopped buying a product because it wasn’t available without plastic packaging', 15% have 'switched from one local business to another' and 11% have 'travelled out of their way to use a lower-plastic firm'.
If two businesses were identical in every other way, 93% of respondents said they would 'shop at the one that had reduced single-use plastic'.
Speaking at today’s Low Plastic Zone launch at the Lazybones restaurant in Cowcross Street, Councillor Rowena Champion, Executive Member for Environment and Transport from Islington council, said: “The Low Plastic Zone on Cowcross Street is an innovative, practical step towards
cutting down on single-use plastics and shows one of the many ways we are working with local people and businesses to tackle the climate emergency.
"We have been encouraged and inspired by the response from the public and businesses alike so far - it is clear many people who live and work in the borough are willing to do their bit in helping reduce single-use plastics.
"We look forward to more businesses in the area and beyond signing up.”
The survey, commissioned ahead of the new zone, also found 'growing public awareness of the harmful effect of plastic on the environment left many feeling worried about the future (38%), frustrated (34%), sad (26%) or powerless (22%) when seeing the volume of single-use plastic on display in shops and restaurants'.
Six per cent of respondents even reported experiencing physical symptoms of anxiety.
Such is the strength of feeling that people are shunning plastic even if it’s to their own detriment -15% have eaten a takeaway meal with fingers rather than accept plastic cutlery, 13% have gone thirsty because they didn’t want to buy a plastic water bottle and one in 10 have refused to buy their child or grandchild a toy, magazine or snack because of the plastic content.
Nine per cent of respondents have spoken to shopkeepers about the amount of packaging on display and eight per cent have commented on businesses’ social media pages.
A plucky eight per cent have even unwrapped items at the till to make a point to shop staff.