BY BILL BRUCE
EDITOR, REFRESHMENT MAGAZINE
In the past few weeks, the media has been dominated by the ‘plastic crisis’, ranging from the scandal of plastics in our oceans to the apparent presence of micro-plastics in bottled water.
The industries that Refreshment magazine serves each have a relationship with plastic and, while some avoid using it, others use it as responsibly as possible.
Governments need to do more to improve and support the infrastructure for efficient recycling of all post-consumer waste. To quote one of my favourite slogans at the moment: ‘waste is only waste if you waste it’. There needs to be considerably more and better consumer education too. I am concerned by the phrase ‘single-use plastic’ that implies it can be used once and then discarded. Where facilities exist and where consumers understand what to do, almost all plastics can have a second life – or more – and industry wants the raw material back. While I hear calls to reduce the amount of plastic produced, a circular economy would keep the majority of existing plastic in use and out of landfill or the oceans.
Innovation and education can, together, move us towards a solution. PET bottles are lighter than ever and, where material is available, can include increasingly higher levels of rPET. Bioplastics, biodegradable and compostable alternatives may deliver change, but are still in early development. With so many different materials in circulation, recycling – where appropriate facilities exist – seems too complicated for many consumers to understand.
Lobbyists and action-groups blame industry for plastic in our oceans, but it is not the plastics industry, the beverage industry or retailers who put it there. We have evolved into a convenience-led, throwaway society and too many find it too easy to pass the ‘blame’ to others. Consumers, industry and government all need to work together on joint action to find solutions. These must involve education, easy participation, investment, imagination and co-operation. Without this, recycling – and plastic in particular – is likely to become the subject of more legislative intervention. But legislation seldom changes consumer behaviour – while proper education and leading by example can.
While we watch and report developments, I am proud that Refreshment’s audience is leading by example and positively contributing to a progressively more sustainable future.
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