Beating plastic pollution a global necessity

"Beat Plastic Pollution", the theme for World Environment Day 2018, is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the greatest challenges of our time. Globally we have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic - with severe environmental consequences. Around the world, 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased EVERY MINUTE. Every year we use up to 5 trillion disposable plastic bags. In total, 50% of the plastic we use is single use.

In the past week a small male pilot whale died in southern Thailand after swallowing more than 80 plastic bags. Earlier in the year, a dead juvenile sperm whale washed ashore in Spain with nearly 30kg of plastic in its stomach. The arguments for reducing single-use plastic and eliminating plastic waste are obvious and a quick Google search will identify around 640 million articles about plastic waste and plastic pollution.

The United Nation's Environmental arm released a report this month highlighting changes that need to be implemented globally to slow the rate of plastic pollution and move away from single-use plastic. 

As global attitudes change, industries and governments around the world are making drastic moves aimed to reduce the amount fo single-use plastic waste. In April, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced she planned to ban the commercial use of plastic products such as cotton buds, drink stirrers and plastic straws. The European Union also proposed a ban on items such as plastic straws and plastic cutlery.

Last year Kenya introduced the world's toughest ban on plastic bags threatening up to four years' imprisonment or fines up to $US40,000 for anyone producing, selling - or even just carrying - a plastic bag. 

On the eve of World Environment Day in Australia, it was encouraging to see major supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths launching ambitious new environmental and sustainability targets amid growing pressure from customers to cut waste. Commitments made by Woolworths include:

  • remove 3.4 billion single-use plastic bags from stores and home deliveries by June 20
  • install recycling bins in all 1000 stores by June 30
  • reduce packaging on fruit and vegetables and in private label products
  • stop selling 140 million plastic straws by end of December
  • work with suppliers to phase out plastic straws on juice cartons

Coles supermarkets have announced the following commitments:

  • make all packaging of Coles Brand products recyclable by 2020
  • reduce plastic wrapping on fruit and vegetables
  • divert 90% of all supermarket waste (including food, cardboard and plastic) from landfill by 2022
  • halve food waste across grocery stores by 2020
  • donate the equivalent of 100 million melas to people in need by 2020 by redistributing surplus food implement soft plastics recycling at supermarkets for reprocessing into garden benches and road base.

An article published by Procurious (also on World Environment Day) lists five companies that are actively fighting plastics. Click here to read how Pret a Manger, Timberland, Sky and Dell are working to reduce plastics.

Further examples of innovation around all things plastic (this time in the fashion industry) are highlighted in a recent Women's Agenda article. Nimble Activewear, a Sydney-based clothing company's core range COMPRESSLITE is created with fabric made from post-consumer use recycled plastic bottles. The brand has saved 94,300 plastic bottles from going to landfill this year alone.

In his World Environment Day message, UN Secretary- General Antonio Guterres urged all people to reject single-use plastic items, and warned that growing levels of plastic waste are becoming unmanageable, saying "every year, more than 8 million tons end up in the oceans."

And as pictures speak a thousand words, we encourage you to click here to see the evidence yourself.




Sonja DuncanComment