Can we really beat plastic pollution?

Today, 5th June 2018, is World Environment Day and this year’s theme is the very topical ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. The impact of plastic is not a newly discovered environmental challenge but, in part thanks to David Attenborough and his Blue Planet II series, over the past few months it has become a headline news item.

Plastic Fan-Drastic

Created in 1907, plastic has become invaluable to society with its multiple uses and its durable form. Of all the plastic we use, 50% is single use – including 1 million plastic drinking bottles purchased around the world every minute and 500 billion disposable plastic bags used worldwide every year. This single-use or disposable plastic is having drastic environmental consequences for Planet Earth.

Plastic is virtually indestructible; however, what was once its key selling point, is now its downfall. It can take up to 1,000 years to decompose, with plastic bags taking at least 450 years. The impact of this is mountains of plastic waste in landfill and in the oceans. In fact, in the Pacific Ocean there is a floating pile of plastic waste that covers an area more than twice the size of France   – that’s 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing over 80,000 tonnes! The consequences of this is proving fatal to marine life.

So, What Can We Do About this?

At Scotch Partners, we have been thinking about the way we use plastic as individuals and as a company. As part of our health and wellbeing agenda, we receive a weekly food shop full of fruit but unfortunately this comes in plastic packaging. This is a difficult one for us to combat as it seems out of our control. Although we do recycle plastic packaging where possible, we ideally want to remove it. This requires a huge shift away from standard packaging and with emerging government policy we are hopeful retailers will be forced to use less plastic, or at least replace with a biodegradable alternative. In the meantime, we are in the process of researching other produce suppliers as part of our Sustainable Procurement Plan. Maybe we can find a local greengrocer to supply our fruit and maybe other groceries too?

Coffee Cup Crazy

Cutting plastic from our weekly food shop is a good start towards ‘Beating Plastic Pollution’ but we want to consider other high uses of plastics that may be a result of our daily work routine. As part of work we all commute, and we attend a lot of external meetings and as most people do we tend to pick up a coffee on the way. These single-use takeaway coffee cups are made largely of paper which sounds great as it should be recyclable, but unfortunately, they are mostly lined with a plastic material which makes the whole cup unrecyclable. In the UK alone, we throw away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year, with only 1% being recycled. We have decided to tackle this, and so today each member of Scotch has been presented with their very own re-usable coffee cup meaning no more single-use takeaway cups! Who knows, by carrying our reusable cups on trains and to meetings maybe we will encourage others to do the same?

There is Hope Yet

With plastic being so widely used and almost unavoidable, thinking about the challenge ahead can leave us feeling a little bit disheartened. However, it wasn’t many years ago that we didn’t even have recycling collections and yet now we wouldn’t think of putting the cereal box in the general waste bin. Becoming plastic-free requires drastic government policy changes and a strong commitment by retailers, primarily supermarkets, but we must not think that as individuals we cannot make a change. Each of us can have a huge impact on the environment and this World Environment Day we want to spread the message that together we can ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’.

Article written by Imogen Christodoulou – Sustainability Consultant
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