Posted on August 1, 2019
Environmental action groups are hitting out at the Ministry of Defence (MOD) after the decision to wrap over two million ration packs per-year in non-recyclable plastic sleeves. Before the decision was made 18 months ago, Army, Royal Navy and RAF personnel were issued cardboard boxes to carry their breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks.
Learning of the decision to switch, multiple groups have warned of increased toxic waste. Amongst the campaigners, Greenpeace said that the packaging would end up “going to landfill, incineration or polluting our oceans”.
Julian Kirby, a plastics pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told The Times: “Our Armed Forces travel the world and often see the impact of environmental crises first-hand. “No doubt they’ll be disappointed that MOD decision-makers are in effect forcing them to become plastic polluters.”
Figures last year showed the Armed Forces used 630,000 plastic hot drink cups, 326,000 takeaway containers, 263,000 cold drink containers and 65,000 straws every year.
Although Friends of the Earth argue the packs “have done perfectly well” without non-recyclable materials, defence officials say the decision comes down to a trade-off between sustainability and operational effectiveness.
An MOD spokesperson said: “Not only does this design produce less waste overall, but it allows troops to carry several ration packs at once.” The ministry also said those troops required to carry a second 24-hour ration have found the bag to be a far easier fit within their bergans. The MOD is also exploring options for a biodegradable outer sleeve, to complement the provided spoon-fork made from potato starch. A recently-introduced policy saw unused food ration packs donated to almost 10,000 UK charities.
The latest MOD sustainability report from 2017/18 showed that 88% of waste and surplus material was diverted from landfill, with 41% of waste going to recycling and the remaining 24% to incineration. A plastic outer bag is now the standard method of ration packaging of the UN and major NATO partners.