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Moving towards a plastic-free Wales

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Sheep grazing in Beddgelert

The UK is the second largest producer of plastic waste per capita in the world, beaten only by the USA.

Plastic has not only become a public nuisance, but a deadly threat to the planet and the environment around us. In fact, the entire planet makes 344 million tonnes of plastic every year, with only 9% of that being recycled!

Coming from such a beautiful and semi-rural part of the world, it’s easy to see the detrimental impact that plastic waste has on the planet. When it litters our quaint streets, our beautiful forests and our crystal waters, it’s very clear that single-use plastic is something that needs to go.

Why is plastic so bad for the environment?

Single use plastic waste

Plastic starts to damage our planet from the moment it’s made, as it uses raw materials such as crude oil and natural gas. Sourcing these materials alone can lead to a variety of environmental disasters.

Deforestation, pollution and the increase in greenhouse gases, among other issues can all be by-products of just getting the materials needed to make plastic.

Plastic needs a lot of energy to be made too, which is one of the reasons that single-use plastic (SUP) is so bad for the planet. It takes 4 million joules of energy to make just one one-litre plastic bottle, and each tonne of plastic made creates three tonnes of CO2. That plastic bottle could then be used once, and thrown into a landfill, only for the whole process to start again.

Plastic continues to be an issue after use as well. Food wrappers can take 10-20 years to decompose. A plastic bottle can take 450 years to decompose. A plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years!

What’s more, plastic doesn’t biodegrade into nothing. As it breaks down, the toxic chemicals that were used to make it seeps out and infects the soil and air around it. It also degrades into microscopic pieces called microplastics, which continue to pollute the planet.

What is Wales doing to reduce plastic use?

Snowdonia / Eryri mountain and lake

Wales is the third best country in the world at recycling its waste.

Wales achieved a recycling rate of 65.2% in 2021 with the target of reaching 70% by the end of 2025 - a target which has already been met by four local authorities!

Wales may also soon be home to the first plastic-free mountain.

Plastic Free Yr Wyddfa is a campaign to eliminate all plastic waste from Yr Wyddfa and help build a sustainable future for the mountain along with its beautiful surrounding landscapes. The campaign involves help from the local communities, including schools, and visitors of the National Park.

What has Glaslyn done to reduce plastic?

Glaslyn ice cream in Beddgelert

We’re incredibly proud to say that Glaslyn has been awarded a 'Silver' Accreditation for having 60% plastic-free operations at our business.

We were able to make a big impact by removing single-use plastics (SUPs) and polystyrene.

Swapping to aluminium cans from SUP bottles has helped us to reduce our carbon footprint further. Aluminium uses less electricity and so generates less sulphur dioxide pollution. They can also be recycled indefinitely, making them a much more sustainable alternative.

We’ve also swapped to a zero-to-landfill waste management system. That means that a large amount of our waste that cannot be recycled is either reused, recycled, composted, or sent to energy recovery.

We've also partnered up with new milk suppliers to help us to use less of the packaging we use in our day-to-day productions. We've joined up with Llaethdy Plas Isa Dairy, a local milk farm based in Glan Conwy. With their help, we've been able to remove all single-use plastics and cardboard by using reusable buckets instead!

We’re continuing to improve the ways that we can be a more sustainable business, and are eager to push towards achieving 90% plastic-free operations and achieve a Copa “Gold” accreditation.

What can you do to help reduce your own plastic waste?

Here are a few ideas that you can try to reduce the amount of plastic that you use in your everyday life.

1. Recycle when you can

Check the labels on your plastic containers to see if they can be recycled. If so, take them home with you or find the nearest recycle bin to ensure that they can be turned into something new. And please, more than anything, don’t just toss it on the ground!

2. Cut back on single-use plastic

Using reusable containers can help to reduce the number of SUPs you use. Reusable containers can use more resources than single-use, but if used often enough can hugely outweigh SUP. If a stainless steel water bottle replaces 50 plastic ones, it will have a lower carbon emission rate (and can tend to work out cheaper for you too!)

3. Say no to unneeded plastics

The next time you’re eating out, ask yourself “Do I really need a straw or plastic cutlery or the takeaway box?” We often think straws are a necessity when getting drinks at fast food places, but probably wouldn’t do it at home! Paper straws are not the best alternative either. Although they biodegrade much better than plastic, they are unlikely to biodegrade when put in a landfill. So, if you can go without, please do.

4. Don’t choose to chew

Did you know conventional chewing gum is made with plastics? This means that they can take a long time to decompose and when they do, they turn into microplastics. Try to reduce the amount you chew (and don’t put it on the bottom of your seat!)

5. Resue it!

Plastic is a cheap and lightweight way to contain things. If you find it difficult to completely rid of plastic from your life, then try your best to reuse it! Refill your water bottle, reuse old butter tubs, milk cartons and take away tupperware. And when it really is done, make sure you recycle it!


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