As consumers, we seem to have a complex relationship with plastic packaging, especially when we are talking about ‘single-use plastic’. On the one hand, the material is extremely lightweight and flexible, meeting many of our everyday needs from drinks bottles, carrier bags, food takeaway containers to the bubble wrap used to protect our on-line purchases.
On the other hand, we are too often confronted with these items, post use, when they have been discarded as litter in our streets, parks and countryside or even as distressing images of floating islands of plastic in our oceans.
It’s not a novel problem, many NGOs and charities have been highlighting the damaging impact of our increasing use of ‘single-use’ plastic for years, yet it is the plight of our oceans that is finally bringing it into the consciences of the wider public, as highlighted recently on David Attenborough’s amazing series, Blue Planet II.
Government actions on single-use plastic
The UK Governments are also taking note. In 2016, the single-use 5p plastic bag tax was introduced in England. Recent data estimates this has resulted in an 80% reduction in the number of plastic bags purchased. Meanwhile, Scotland has already committed to a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for items including plastic bottles.
Central government is already gathering evidence around plastic bottles and coffee cups, and today in the UK Autumn Budget announcement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond has called for evidence on whether bringing in a tax system and charges on single-use plastics would help reduce the impact of discarded waste on marine and bird life.
Taking an alternative approach to plastic
What is clear about all of this is that the focus on plastic items designed for single use is growing, which means businesses will need to adapt.
Some great work has already been done by producers as diverse as Coca Cola, Dell, Ecover, HP, P&G, Sky and Unilever for example. For those producers considering taking action, knowing where to start can be challenging.
Our team here at Anthesis can support producers to initially establish what a ‘do nothing’ or a ‘business-as-usual’ approach would look like to your business in terms of financial costs and reputational risks, in what is an ever-changing landscape of policies, materials availability and consumer opinion and buying habits. From this we can then develop realistic options that are available to decrease your company’s environmental impact.
As experts in the field of sustainability with a global reach, there are several other ways we can help your organization:
- Develop position statements based on robust research, options appraisals and regular engagement with key stakeholders within the client’s delivery team
- Produce concise reports suitable for the boardroom and larger stakeholder groups
- Undertake international research and evidence gathering for best practice to inform option development
- Deliver options assessments – ranging from high-level assessments to developing financially detailed cost benefit analysis models for programs of change
By assessing options available now, you will not only be helping to alleviate what Greenpeace is calling a global emergency, but will be putting your business in a more sustainable position for the future.
To discuss single-use plastics in more detail or to explore actions your business can take, contact Beth Simpson.