Let's get naked... A step to solving the plastics problem?
We have a problem. A massive problem. One the world is slowly waking up to but not one that anybody has a meaningful enough solution to as yet: plastic. It's in every corner of our lives, every area of our world; it's in our homes, our shops, our schools, our beaches, our oceans, our rivers, our food, our animals, our toiletries. It's everywhere.
We have a problem. A massive problem. One the world is slowly waking up to but not one that anybody has a meaningful enough solution to as yet: plastic. It’s in every corner of our lives, every area of our world; it’s in our homes, our shops, our schools, our beaches, our oceans, our rivers, our food, our animals, our toiletries. It’s everywhere.
Consumers are increasingly coming to the realisation that change is needed but it’s often such an overwhelming prospect as to how to adopt change, when plastic infiltrates every area of our lives.
Businesses, meanwhile, are starting to develop innovative solutions to single-use plastic-based packaging or products; to take better responsibility of the global impact that plastic consumption and waste is having on our world, our society and our health. Many are looking at the fact that just 9% of plastic produced to date has been recycled, and realising that solutions must go beyond recyclability.
Coca-Cola European Enterprises (CCEP) head of sustainability Nick Brown recently said of the issue: “Even if you make something recyclable, it could still be littered. We’re now seeing alternatives marked as biodegradable or compostable coming onto the market, but people still don’t know what to do with them – they can contaminate recycling streams and, due to misunderstandings, people might throw them into the environment.”
While recycling inevitably has its place in achieving meaningful change, reducing reliance on plastic and thus the pollution it creates is critical. edie’s Mission Possible Plastic Hub recently secured commitment from 30 big brand names across the UK to an array of bold plastic-related pledges in a step to take accountability for reducing plastic waste across the board. And we’re seeing other businesses up and down the country announcing innovative initiatives and taking measurable action in the mission to tackle plastic waste, too. Here are some of those schemes:
Greengrocer style: Stripping back and going ‘naked’ is something consumers are getting right behind. In recent weeks, multiple brands have announced plans to remove plastic packaging, with Iceland introducing its greengrocer scheme, trialling the removal of plastic from its fruit and veg lines. M&S recently announced that it, too, is trialling the removal of plastic packaging and best before dates in a bid to cut plastic and food waste. In addition, we’ve seen cosmetics brand Lush open three new ‘naked’ stores where plastic is a thing of the past.
Plastic-free packaging: By the end of next year, Ben & Jerry will have removed all plastic from its products and stores.. It’ll replace them with biodegradable or composable alternatives. Nestlé, meanwhile, has made a similar move with the first of its plastic-free packaging solutions due on shelves later this year, as part of a string of new sustainable packaging commitments the confectionary brand has set.
Take-back recycle schemes: In countries around the world, take-back schemes prove really popular with glass and plastic bottles, but M&S is taking that initiative one step further with the introduction of take-back bins for hard-to-recycle plastics. They’re set to appear in stores across the country by the end of the year. Bread brand Hovis has also launched a partnership with recycling specialist TerraCycle to make it easier for its fully recyclable plastic bread bags to be correctly disposed of by households.
PCR plastics: Utilising post-consumer recycled (PRC) plastic is an idea lots of brands are looking at as a way of reducing plastic pollution. Highland Spring recently announced that, following a successful six-month pilot scheme to roll out innovative PCR plastic bottles in its 500ml still water lines, it will become a permanent part of its offering. Adidas is also set to double production of its ocean plastic trainers in 2019.
The so-called ‘Blue Planet effect’ has made consumers, businesses and governments across the globe stand up and acknowledge that change is needed. But, as business leaders at a recent edie Plastics Thinkathon were reminded, the most commonly littered item in the UK is actually chewing gum, the majority of which is plastic-based; that recycling rates for plastics have been stagnating for several years and that the UK has a serious lack of on-the-go recycling bins and infrastructure capable of processing small-format packaging.
Small steps together will make a big impact, but challenging behaviours of consumers and businesses that are an ingrained way of life, is the bigger challenge - and the window of time in which companies can harness the increased awareness to drive action is likely to be rapidly shrinking.
Creative thinking is critical in tackling the plastics crisis; practical solutions to cutting plastic waste are imperative but so is sparking new and intelligent behaviours. The more we talk about the crisis and importantly think about new ways to move the world forward, the greater chance there is to create meaningful impact.
THE PLASTICS HUB AT EDIE LIVE 2019
edie Live 2019 takes place on 21-22 May at the NEC in Birmingham, where our hugely popular Mission Possible Plastics Hub content is coming to life. Those wishing to take part in edie's next plastics-themed event are invited to join us there, where we will be housing a dedicated area for industry professionals to connect with one another, share circular economy ideas, meet packaging solutions providers and discover ground-breaking plastic waste innovations.
Designed by edie’s editorial team, this special area of the show will include single-use plastics roundtable discussions, packaging solutions stands and a professionally-facilitated Thinkathon.
Need more good reasons to attend edie Live? Check out the entire programme of speakers, sessions and workshops here.
See you there.