AN inquiry into single use plastics has called on the the region’s largest employer to show community leadership and speed up actions to reduce plastic use.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive will next consider 16 recommendations including high-level commitments to reduce single-use plastics in its array of buildings and encourage its large chain of suppliers to change to more environmentally-friendly materials.

Other recommendations following an in-depth study led by councillors include an action to end the use of single-use plastics products “wherever possible” and for the council, which employs 15,000 staff to lead by example, demonstrating “positive change and quick wins” on its contracts.

The inquiry also concluded the authority should use its influence on key bodies in the region and schools to promote key messages and long-term campaigns so the “public to reduce their use of plastics in the workplace and in the home.”

However, the report states elimination of single-use plastics, although desirable is not realistic at this stage as they contribute to food safety and hygiene, and reduce packaging weight in transit.

The councillors concluded the pandemic had also served to highlight that it is essential at present for some medical and hygiene purposes.

The report states: “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.”

The inquiry found while a clear tension between the £82m financial burden of the Covid-19 pandemic on the council and further moves to protect the environment, reducing single-use plastics was “not an issue that we can leave to deal with another day”.

The report states “a headlong rush” to cut single-use plastics was not being sought for. It added: “All of the above relates to getting our own house in order, but the Achilles heel in North Yorkshire is that currently there is not a consistent approach across the waste collection authorities as to what materials can be collected for recycling. Our role in that regard is to champion action to reduce single-use plastics; if we show leadership, others will come along.”