Us humans, just by going about our daily business, create an avalanche of rubbish. No, we’re not referring to the contents of politicians’ tweets, we’re talking about everyday waste. 2.12 billion tons to be exact. To put this in perspective, if this waste was loaded onto trucks and they were parked nose to tail, they would circle the earth 24 times.
Last year China announced they were stopping importing 24 kinds of solid waste in a bid to stop the perceived deluge of foreign garbage. They have also increased quality controls for other types of waste, making the UK’s recycling infrastructure look decidedly out-dated.
The EU has invested €350 million into research aimed at modernising plastic production and collection. They are trying to create an urgent plan to help Europe clean up its act. A potential part of this plan is to introduce a tax on single-use plastics, although no details have been released yet.
The vice president of the commission, Frans Timmermans, said, “We are going to choke on plastic if we don’t do anything about this. How many millions of straws do we use every day across Europe? I would have people not use plastic straws any more. It only took me once to explain to my children. And now … they go looking for paper straws or don’t use straws at all. It is an issue of mentality.”
While the EU is spending money on research Germany is taking action. The most proactive of the European community, Germany’s latest legislation comes into effect in January 2019. It sets recycling targets of 63% for plastic packaging, and 90% for paper, glass, and metal. They hope it will greatly increase the use of bioplastic as an alternative to traditional plastic.
Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks, said: “The packaging legislation is an important step in furthering the development of the recycling industry. I am relieved that we have succeeded in finding a viable compromise, which takes due account of various interests, and which is particularly beneficial to the environment.”
While this new legislation was merely a twinkle in Germany’s eye, all the way back in 2015, France was implementing their own Green Growth and Energy Transition Law. This made the use of bio-based packaging mandatory, although the percentage required is subject to a gradually increasing scale that peaks at 60% in 2025.
The UK’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, has stated he wants Britain to become ‘Global leaders’ at combatting plastic waste. Off the back of campaigning to reduce plastic waste 40 companies have signed a pledge to cut back on plastic packaging, with the aim of making all packaging recyclable by 2025.
These 40 companies are made up of major companies, such as Coca-Cola, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. The two big supermarkets are accountable for more than 80% of plastic packaging sold by supermarkets in the UK, so their commitment will have a significant impact.
We’re also seeing more zero waste shops popping up all over the UK. They are receiving great feedback, eliminating the environmental and monetary cost of packaging, as well as helping to reduce food waste.
The public awareness surrounding the issue has grown significantly, making the incentive for businesses to be at the forefront even greater. The trend we are already seeing towards eliminating single-use plastics needs to be bolstered by solid and achievable legislation with measurable targets.
Whether we are exporting our goods to the world, or simply trying to offload some of our rubbish, we are going to have to meet the receiving countries standards and expectations. The British recycling industry needs investment and modernisation in order to comply, while manufacturers in the food industry need to invest in smarter and more sustainable packaging solutions.
Setting the highest environmental standards when designing new packaging will help to ensure you meet the standards of today, as well as mitigating any potential future legislation.
It’s fair to say that after a decade of recruitment that’s all I know, however I do know it well. Five of those years were spent in Hong Kong where I learnt a lot about myself whilst ...