The plastic pollution crisis is undeniable | Big companies looking to reduce their use of plastic

China’s decision last year to ban the imports of lower quality recyclable materials has been a wake up call for the global recycling industry, but is forcing it to change for the better. And with research showing there will be more plastic than fish by weight in the world's oceans by 2050(!), it is highlighting the need for change more than ever. Big corps can no longer ignore the fact that plastic pollution is a big problem. We have enough evidence to show that single use plastics harm our environment, impact our waste streams and cause serious health issues like hormonal changes.

The EU says it will clamp down on manufacturers to clean up their waste in an effort to reduce marine litter. But I think guidelines and laws to save the environment really should be the norm throughout industries, as it should be across government and community. It’s a crisis, a disaster, an epidemic. Serious attempts should be made to not only reverse the effects of plastic pollution by cleaning up beaches etc, but surely serious attempts to prevent more plastic pollution. The UK prime minister has a long-term strategy of eradicating all avoidable plastic waste in the UK by 2042. Green groups said the proposals should have legal force. Labour's Jeremy Corbyn said 25 years was "far too long" to take action. Agreed. So it seems any drastic changes to prevent more plastic pollution lies in the hands and conscious of the companies providing the single use plastics.

Corp giants are finally hearing the penny drop and making (slow but sure) changes, but for many reasons it’s key to support your independents where you can! Support independents and they will support you! But sometimes, you are left with no choice to run into a supermarket chain, when your favourite independent is closed and you emergency ‘need’ something! I know it hurts but it’s better to run into (and therefore support) a supermarket that is at least trying to take steps in the war on plastic.

I blogged before about brands and people helping to protect our world oceans here. Now let’s take a look at some big corps that are starting to wake up to the plastic crisis… 

Morrisons

It makes total sense and should have stayed this way - hindsight is a wonderful thing. British retailer Morrisons is to revive traditional brown paper bags made from 100% recyclable paper. This will be to replace those life destroying, murdering, jellyfish imitating, seabird tricking, clear plastic bags for groceries. A whopping 150 million of these little horrendous bags are used each ear, with more users than you think unknowing of the damage they cause to the environment. With users left with ‘no choice’ as it’s what is available to use.

What spurred this change on? The customers. Morrisons have listened to customers concerns about using plastic grocery bags and that is why they are bringing back paper bags. This is all a step in the right direction and show that customers can dictate the supply!

Morrisons have also committed to ensuring that all its own-brand plastic packaging will be compostable, recyclable or reusable by 2025. That’s a fair sight better than Theresa May’s whopping 25 year bracket for change. I hope any plastic that is still being made then will be of recycled content.  

They will also offer 100 loyalty points when customers use their own containers at the meat and fish counter. As you can see Morrisons are making sure fire changes and also encouraging and educating their customers too. Nice.

McDonald’s

The McDonald’s straw. Made in its millions worldwide. Used for a matter of seconds. Ending up in our oceans forever. Plastic straws are one of the most rife forms of plastic waste and incredibly destructive to our oceans and environment. You may have seen the painful to watch video of the sea turtle having a straw extracted from its nose. Plastic straws ruin lives. So it’s good to hear McDonald’s taking (small but positive) steps toward caring for our environment. (I’m not sure if ‘caring’ is the correct word here, it’s more that the plastic pollution crisis is indisputable).

McDonald’s announced it would move away from using plastic straws in its UK and Ireland restaurants. The fast food chain said it will start a phased rollout of paper straws at all 1,361 of its sites in the two countries. The change is set to start in September and will be completed by 2019.

There’s a long way to go but it’s a start and a good path to start upon. The petitions, campaigns and voices have all been heard. Interesting that the change is only commencing in UK and Ireland…perhaps they are leading the way for the new era of eco conscious people. I cannot imagine Donald Trump being on board with such a change in the U.S., when the guy doesn’t even ‘believe’ in global warming…it’s not a religion buddy, it’s hard scientific facts. And don’t get me started on Trump’s desires to save the coal power plants in the U.S.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if McDonald’s just close all the restaurants instead!? Mean of me, but I know you’re all thinking the same! More independents pleeeaaase! 

"McDonald's is committed to using our scale for good and working to find sustainable solutions for plastic straws globally," says Francesca DeBiase Executive Vice President, Global Supply Chain and Sustainability. "In addition to the exciting news from the UK, we are testing straw alternatives in other countries to provide the best experience for our customers. We hope this work will support industry wide change and bring sustainable solutions to scale." 

IKEA

With 363 giant stores worldwide, the Swedish global retailer and meatball extraordinaire says it wants to help customers live more sustainably. They will phase out all single use plastics from the stores and restaurants by 2020 amid the plastic crisis our oceans are facing. You can read more about it here. After visiting an IKEA store recently, I can confirm the phase out has already begun in the restaurants. Nice.

“Through our size and reach we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than 1 billion people to live better lives, within the limits of the planet”, Torbjörn Lööf, the chief executive of the retailer’s parent Inter Ikea group, said.

“Change will only be possible if we collaborate with others and nurture entrepreneurship. We are committed to taking the lead working together with everyone – from raw material suppliers all the way to our customers and partners.”

The Greenpeace UK oceans campaigner Elena Polisano welcomed the Ikea move and said: “We now need to see other big retailers come up with ambitious plans to cut the amount of throwaway plastic on their shelves. With one truckload of plastic waste entering our seas every minute and spreading everywhere from the Arctic to the Antarctic and to the deepest point of the ocean, we need bold action – and fast.”

IKEA are also designing products that are able to be repaired, resold or recycled. I do love a bit of forward-thinking Scandi design! And their CEO has the right mindset, it’s up to the retailers to educate the consumers. Some people are unaware (and unfortunately sometimes just plain ignorant) of the health of the environment and buy things thoughtlessly - but if being environmentally conscious becomes the norm, we can get these people on board too without giving them a choice!

 

BBC

BBC’s Blue Planet II presented by Sir David Attenborough really opened people’s eyes. It hit home. Not just the eyes of environmentalists, but the eyes of the general public who were previously unaware of the war on plastic - a new wave of environmentalist. Are the masses caring more about sustainability?

Through the voice of Sir David, BBC had the ideal platform to bring attention to the ocean plastic crisis.  With the series showing on prime time viewing, they highlighted the damage plastic pollution is doing to the world’s oceans and sea life, killing and harming many species. The show imprinted deep into the thousands of eyes watching.

 

Sir David has shared his "astonishment" at how his series has "inspired change" amongst the nation and beyond, saying: "We hoped that Blue Planet II would open people’s eyes to the damage that we are doing to our oceans and the creatures that live in them.

"I've been absolutely astonished at the result that that programme has had. I never imagined there would be quite so many of you who would be inspired to want change.

"The strength of your response has not gone unnoticed in the corridors of power, or in business boardrooms.

"The actions of any just one of us may seem to be trivial and to have no effect. But the knowledge that there are thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who are doing the same thing - that really does have an effect.”

Since the impact of Blue Planet II, the BBC are putting out a series of online films and digital content as part of the of Plastic Watch Initiative. The BBC Natural History Unit will reveal the full extent of the plastics issue through statistics.

It comes as no surprise to know the BBC aims to be free of single-use plastics across all operations by 2020 after the monumental series Blue Planet II.

The transition has already started as plastic cups and cutlery will be completely removed across BBC sites by the end of 2018, ending the use of around 2m plastic cups used by visitors and staff each year, the corporation said.

Some sites have already begun to remove plastic cups from kitchens and replace them with glass where possible, and this will be rolled out to all BBC offices.

The BBC are in discussion with suppliers and services to assess when further changes can be made to cut single use plastic in all operations such as coffee cups, packaging of products and catering on location.

Tony Hall, BBC director general, said: “Like millions of people watching Blue Planet II, I was shocked to see the avoidable waste and harm created by single use plastic.

“We all need to do our bit to tackle this problem, and I want the BBC to lead the way.

“Scrapping throwaway plastic cups and cutlery is the first step, and with our plan I hope we can have a BBC free of single-use plastic altogether.”

The corporation understands the urgency to take action and I think their 2 year timetable for phasing out single-use plastics seems more promising, especially in comparison to the prime minister Theresa May’s pledge to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste within 25 years!

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