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RECYCLING & WASTE MANAGEMENT


TURNING THE TIDE


Businesses are responding to the public’s anxiety about pollution by reducing or even eliminating plastic in their packaging supply chains. But are critical implications


being overlooked? James Minton of Radish discusses the pitfalls of a gung-ho approach to single-use plastic.


The war on single-use plastic is moving in one direction. Since the new year, businesses have been engaged in a game of plastic brinkmanship; a case of who can reduce or eliminate the most to gain favour with a public anxious about the amount ending up in landfills and the world’s oceans.


This swift action is entirely ¬understandable when recalling some of the sobering scenes from the BBC’s Blue Planet 2, the series largely credited with instigating the nation’s sharpened focus on plastic waste. Distressing images of whales tangled in plastic netting, unwitting albatross parents feeding their chicks plastic, and dolphins exposing new-born calves to pollutants through contaminated milk have naturally caused the nation to reconsider what it uses and throws away. But is there more to this debate than meets the eye? And are businesses actually creating a much bigger problem in their sweeping efforts to appease concerned customers?


36 | TOMORROW’S FM


The bigger picture Few of course can argue with any effort to reduce plastic usage – after all the less we use the better – but it’s eye- opening to first look at the issue on a global scale, as this gives the nation some steer on its contribution.


Statistics from Greenpeace show our addiction to plastic is a historical one that’s hard to break – since the 1950s we’ve produced 8.3bn metric tons, enough to cover every inch of the UK ankle-deep more than ten times over. Staggering as that may be, developed nations like the UK that would likely be considered big offenders actually figure much lower down on the index when compared to others.


In fact, a 2017 report from the Ocean Conservatory shows that the majority of plastic, “enters the ocean from a small geographic area, and that over half comes from just five rapidly growing economies – China, Indonesia,


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