Plastic – The New Evil?
The war against plastic has been dominating the headlines for weeks now; plastic has always been an issue for the environment but after a rather moving series of Blue Planet 2 last year, the public seem keener than ever to do something about it.
Last week, I attended an event held by the PR industry’s governing body – the PRCA, entitled Plastic – The New Evil. This was a panel discussion, with four influential speakers, each from different backgrounds but with the same passion to change the way society approaches single-use plastic. Plastic as we know it has only really existed for the last 60-70 years, and in this time an estimated 8.3bn tonnes of plastic has been created. Of this, some 6.3bn tonnes is now waste – and 79% of that is in landfill or the natural environment.
Sitting on the panel was Dr David Tudor, Marine Pollution Expert and part of Surfers against Sewage, Victoria Page, Founder of Victoria Page Communications, Rachel Barton, Responsible Business Manager at Sky, and Adam Hall, Head of Sustainability at Surfdome. Throughout the discussion, a common theme which was echoed by everyone was that ‘in order to reduce plastic pollution, we need to have an impact on people’s social norms’.
David Tudor said a lot of single-use plastics are used by consumers who are on-the-go, because of the convenience factor. But is it convenient or are we just being lazy? Adam Hall also brought some interesting thoughts to the table. He said that plastic pollution is the world’s most solvable problem and that in order to make the change we need to change consumer behaviour patterns. But how do we do this? By reaching out on social media? Victoria Page strongly believes that businesses should be held accountable and that we shouldn’t be over ambitious with reduction targets.
Some businesses are taking a stand, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Surfdome created a sustainability strategy last year, switching to biodegradable boxes and reducing single-use plastic, and within the first quarter eliminated 74% of plastic in the company. Sky has an entire team dedicated to Sustainability and obviously has a huge influence on the public, so it falls to them to really help to drive change.
Grocery companies are also following suit. According to Greenpeace, UK Supermarkets are generating one million tonnes of plastic annually, which contributes to the estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic in our oceans, each year. In January Iceland pledged to ditch all plastic packaging from its own-branded products by 2023, and Sainsbury’s has committed to halving its own-brand packaging by 2020, compared with 2005.
From reusable coffee cups and two-minute beach cleans to Plogging – the latest Scandinavian running trend where you run and pick up litter – there are a number of changes we can make to help reduce plastic pollution. I for one am being a lot more mindful about recycling; I am cutting down on my use of plastic bottles and will definitely be giving Plogging a try!
Senior Account Executive