Plastic (not so) fantastic

Forgive me for saying this, but unless you’ve just crawled out of the ocean, you’ll already be well aware that single use plastics are bad for the environment. (Speaking of which, Greenpeace claims that the equivalent of one truckload of plastic is dumped into the seas every single minute).

But while the last couple of decades have seen widespread calls to curb our reliance on plastic, it seems that the tide simply isn’t turning. In fact, in the wake of Covid-19, the world is now also facing a worsening plastic pandemic.

As the number of Coronavirus cases grew, so did the demand for face shields, disposable gloves and takeaway food containers. And as we stayed home to saves lives, the seismic shift to online shopping meant retailers got through more bubble wrap, shrinkwrap and other packaging materials than ever.

But of course, you can’t just blame the pandemic. Way before most of the world had heard of Wuhan, the planet had long been struggling to cope with its plastics problem.

And perhaps (unsurprisingly) many of the world’s biggest brands – the likes of Coke, Pepsi, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Unilever, Nestlé, and Procter & Gamble – are also the biggest culprits when it comes to generating plastic waste.

In an attempt to lessen their impact, these companies have set themselves voluntary targets to increase the amount of recycled plastic in their products – targets they have largely failed to meet.

This might not seem such a revelation when you learn that, according to a 2017 article by the journal Science, of the 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste generated since 1950, a staggering 91% has never been recycled.

However, to quote Greenpeace, “Recycling alone is simply never going to solve this problem”. Therefore, we as individuals need to do all we can to tackle the issue.

Here in the UK, we use 7.7 billion plastic water bottles each year. But if everyone of us started using refillable bottles and drinking tap water, imagine the savings that could be made, in terms of environmental and financial cost.

And while perceptions of the purity of tap water vary widely across the world, products such as the Vital Capsule System (which we’re currently developing a campaign for with longstanding client Franke), can ensure that water from the tap is just as safe and great tasting as bottled.

But as well vetoing plastic bottles, there are lots of other ways we can each play our part in the war on plastic. Start by saying no to plastic coffee lids, plastic bags, plastic cutlery and plastic takeaway containers. As well as a reusable water bottle, invest in a reusable mug for your hot drink of choice.

Avoid excessively packaged items and buy fruit and vegetables loose. Equally, switch to stores that allow you to decant products into your own containers and jars.

At home, little changes like buying bamboo toothbrushes or milk in glass bottles can all help to make a difference. And while you’re out and about, picking up plastic litter and disposing of it properly will help prevent plastic having a harmful effect on wildlife and nature.

When you consider that it takes a single plastic bottle up to 450 years to decompose, it becomes brutally obvious that this is an issue that isn’t going away anytime soon. However, it’s clear that just a few small changes to our behaviour could go a long way to making plastic somewhat less of a problem.