#PointlessPlastics… A search for solutions to our plastic problems
By Karen Sutton, CEO, Global Good Awards
“We’re all on a journey…
We all know that plastic causes catastrophic effects; it’s out in the open for all to see. In 2017, we’ve seen two big pushes that have delivered the problem straight onto our TVs and into the public-eye. Firstly, with Sky’s Ocean Rescue campaign, and most recently with BBC’s remarkable (yet somewhat startling) Blue Planet II. I just wish the urgency had been understood all those years ago when environmentalists were shouting it as loud as they dared… but we all had other priorities, right?
In reality though, how easy is it to change? Can we change it overnight? Unlikely… Consumers can certainly decide to change what they buy overnight which will slowly affect the ‘supply and demand’ process (if they know what they are looking for), but for manufacturers and retailers, the changes required to do a packaging u-turn on plastics can be a mighty mountain to climb; and for some, the word ‘plastic’ is still that big ‘elephant in the room’.
Let’s address another ‘elephant in the room’ too. We still need plastic! Yep, there; I said it! It’s the safest way to store certain foodstuffs (and in many cases creating easier accessibility), it’s required for medical and sterile environments including for use as PPE (personal protective clothing) and there are probably a dozen other uses for it too. BUT, reducing single-use plastics (which form over 50% of all plastics produced), increasing the use of PCR plastics and other recycled forms (where the technology already exists), disposing of discarded plastics more responsibly and investing in the education of the consumer, gives us miles of scope to clean up our act and reduce our negative impacts to ourselves and on the planet. That’s why we are targeting #PointlessPlastics.
Who do you think is to blame for choking our planet with single-use and irresponsibly disposed of plastics? Is it the Inventor of the first synthetic polymer plastic, Leo Baekeland, who couldn’t see 100 years into the future? Is it the Manufacturer, who has mass produced plastic as cheaply as possible since the 1950s to keep up with demand? Is it the Retailer for driving down manufacturing prices? Is it the Advertiser for using celebrity endorsements making everything look so colourful and enticing so the consumer just HAS to purchase it? Or is it the Consumer for always wanting more convenience and a bargain?
The truth is – we all have to take responsibility for ridding our planet of #PointlessPlastics!
We know it’s a mountain of a challenge to change from single-use and non-recyclable plastics to more sustainable solutions. Not just for the retailers, but for us too… the public. But we need more mainstream education on what is good and what’s not, don’t we? Whilst staying with several friends over the summer this year, I was taking a special interest in their Recycling bins… exciting, I know! What astonished me, was that out of 5 or 6 family homes, only one of them knew the ‘Dos and Don’ts’ of recycling… why is that?
It doesn’t stop there either… what about the use of single-use plastics (specifically straws) in TV, film and advertising. If someone sees a drink being advertised on TV that has a straw in it, it encourages us to not only purchase the product but to put a straw in the drink too. Companies need to be looking at the bigger picture, and setting a precedent in not only reducing their plastic use, but also the advertising of such products. Other products have been banned from advertising as they harm us, so it’s time to address the advertising of plastics.
So, I’ve come up with a campaign called #PointlessPlastics. Initially the idea was to get people to tweet with their photos of badly packaged items, over-use of plastics or where they weren’t needed at all. However, there’s no point stopping there… otherwise how will we discover all the different solutions that are out there to the problem, and also how will we know where our manufacturers and retailers are in their journey towards a single-use plastic-free supply chain?
This isn’t a name and shame exercise, but neither is it greenwashing. Examples could be a badly packaged vegetable in a supermarket, but it could equally be a member of your family wrapping everything in cling film and not realising why it’s a problem, and more importantly not knowing what they should do instead! Just think, if cling film stopped selling, retailers would stop stocking it!
Yes, we’re looking for examples of where you think plastic could have been easily replaced with something more sustainable, or was not necessary at all. However, we want the retailers to embrace this too…Where are you on your journey…? How difficult is it to change? Adopt a ‘share best practice’ approach, show us examples of your change, respond to those that have posted photos where you’ve used #PointlessPlastics… Embrace the small seed-funded organisations that have the solution already…!
Be constructive not critical… offer a solution if you have one! Respond to each other’s tweets… we CAN all work towards a planet where #PointlessPlastics are a thing of the past.
In a nutshell, we want to get everyone from the manufacturer to the consumer on the same page… A platform where we can all listen, learn and adopt.
So as part of our campaign to showcase poor uses of plastics and excellent examples of positive change; we’re going to help to bridge the gap between retailers, campaigners and consumers to support a step-change towards a planet where #PointlessPlastics become history. Over the next weeks and months, we’ll be interviewing retailers… we’ll be showcasing solutions, and we plan to take it all the way to No. 10.
You can read the press release here