Fife Council buys 42 MILLION wet wipes to cope with COVID pandemic

Covid-19 has had a disastrous effect on Fife Council’s drive to reduce single use plastics, a new report has revealed.

Thursday, 18th November 2021, 2:07 pm

The local authority pledged back in June 2019 to cut single use plastic cutlery, cups and straws from all Fife Council buildings and investigate the use of non-plastic alternatives for other catering items.

But while there was encouraging initial success, it has emerged that the impact of Covid over the past year has - in many cases - reversed much of the excellent work achieved the year before.

Numbers have increased sometimes by four-fold, particularly in relation to products related to health and hygiene and catering, with gloves, wet wipes, aprons, masks, sticky tape and plastic bags among those items seeing a dramatic uptick in use.

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Councillor Ross Vettraino at the launch of the council's single use plastics campaign which has been decimated by the pandemic

Council officials have blamed the need to use single use plastics for health and safety reasons to manage the spread of Covid for the rise, while staffing issues and the impact of Covid on the supply chain - and therefore the ability to purchase alternatives - have also been cited.

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In an update to councillors, Pam Ewen, head of the council’s planning service, said the increase had been disappointing, particularly as the council had achieved a 50% reduction in food containers and cutlery and a 40% reduction in plastic bags in the first year of the project.

“The drive to reduce is still there,” she stressed.

“However, the risk to health, safety of our school children and vulnerable adults as well as supply issues will not be resolved until Covid is managed down or supply chains and processes adapt to reusable materials.

“We anticipate that business as usual (and associated reduction of single use plastics will not return soon.”

A staggering 42.9 million wet wipes were purchased over a 12-month period, up from just 526,000 in 2019/20, while more than 2.5 million plastic pinnies and aprons were needed in 2020/21 compared to just 160,000 a year previously.

Almost 1.9 million items of cutlery were purchased compared to just 627,000 the year before, although it was noted that some schools have returned to using metal cutlery while others are using wooden knives, forks and spoons.

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