Plastic Waste – What will YOU do about it?
During the holiday break, I received a personal email from an acquaintance about plastic waste. It simply had a link – this one – and the words
“What will YOU do about it?”
In this article, you will read an update of the current situation vis-à-vis plastic waste in the UK, followed by suggestions of things you can do at work and at home, to prevent this problem getting worse. (Scroll straight down to the suggestions if you don’t have time to read the whole article.)
The Plastic Whale
We are quite literally drowning in our own plastic. But it’s not just us that’s dying. The documentary shows a display of 30 large pieces of plastic extracted from the dead whale’s gut.
The Situation in the UK
China has been accepting 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling from the UK. It is no surprise to many in the industry that China has decided they will no longer reprocess import plastic waste. A total of 24 different waste streams are being disallowed. The superpower has been intimating this move for some considerable time.
Meanwhile, Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary admitted to being caught unawares of the imminent issue, leading a Surfers Against Sewage spokesman to suggest Gove was sleeping on the job during a BBC 5Live interview today (January 2nd 2018) .
We all need to do our bit to reduce plastic waste. The UK does not have the capacity to turn around these vast stockpiles of used plastic. One option is to send it to landfill, leading to;
- excessive taxes for missing landfill reduction targets,
- plus more rubbish reaching the oceans
A second unacceptable option is to burn the waste but this is unsatisfactory for these compelling reasons;
- Incineration creates a market for more single use plastic because once invested into, feedstock will be required.
- Investment is necessary, but should be towards more circular solutions, ie reprocessing installations.
- Burning plastic creates green-house gases which the UK is aiming to reduce in order to reach the Climate Change targets we have committed to. Not to mention the toxic fumes and residual hazardous heavy metals and other noxious chemicals.
The third more attractive option is to reclaim post use plastic for re-use. There is an opportunity to develop UK infrastructure for reprocessing as a result of the Chinese decree. This is long overdue and it is a shame that policies are not yet in place to encourage this potential. A circular economy approach to recycling plastic will protect the country’s resources and reduce our carbon footprint.
At Workplace – All Companies
A recent visit to the Carrwood Park revealed cold water drinking stations on-tap and real glasses, instead of plastic cups. An additional consequence is style and elegance, which the business park’s management strive to achieve.
This is just one way to reduce the plastic footprint of the working environment. Take a look at your own premises to see where you can have a positive influence.
For companies manufacturing plastic or packaging products in it, it’s time to look to the future and source alternatives. Although alternatives are available, these may be more expensive (that’s in monetary cost – not cost to the planet), according to a source at National Flexible. Surely that’s a matter of supply and demand because as both of these increase, the price will drop.
At Home – Everyone!
The plastic problem is not one which sees boundaries between home and work life.
Home is a good place to start reviewing the single use plastic you use. The 5p charge on plastic shopping bags has encouraged most of us to choose re-useable bags. A reduction of 85% usage was achieved in the first year which is phenomenal and demonstrates what we can contribute to.
But, don’t forget, you spend a lot of your waking hours at work. Studies show that although we make recycling conscious decisions at home, we do not yet take the same responsibility at work. These positive behaviours need to be transferred to your workplace too.
How to Get Started Recycling Plastic at Work
Plastic waste is just one environmental issue to face at the workplace. There are other forms of waste to consider too, as well as your energy and utility usage. Added to the list are procurement issues in the face of resource scarcity, then there’s increasing customer demand for responsible products and services.
You can control these issues by putting a plan together and at the same time, be seen to improve by your client base.