World Environment Day: Beat Plastic Pollution: If You Can't Re-use It, Refuse It

June 2018

Posted on Jun 06, 2018

“Beat Plastic Pollution” is the theme for World Environment Day 2018. It is a call to action for all of us to come together to combat one of the great environmental challenges of our time. It invites us all to consider how we can make changes in our everyday lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our wildlife – and our own health. In this webinar, we’ll learn hear from 2 IEMA members delivering change in their organisations. Firstly, Martin Gettings will outline the efforts Canary Wharf have made to drive down plastic pollution. Secondly, Stuart McLanaghan will highlight the work fish21 have been doing to tackle the impact fishing line has on the environment.

Presentations

World Environment Day: Beat Plastic Pollution: If You Can’t Re-use It, Refuse It- P Jones, IEMA- CLICK HERE

Sustainable Recreational Fishing Line Use- Dr S McLanaghan FIEMA, fish21/eden21- CLICK HERE

Sustainable Recreational Fishing Line Use- Infographic- CLICK HERE

World Environment Day 2018 #Breaking the Plastic Habit- M Gettings MIEMA, CEnv, Canary Wharf Group PLC- CLICK HERE

 

Questions and Answers – reflection from Stuart McLanaghan, fish21 / eden21

1. There’s a huge surge from both the media and consumers for responsible plastic use. In your experience, what is the best way for sustainability professionals to capture this momentum and convert it into action in their organisation?

Making change at the individual business level can be daunting, particularly for smaller businesses, without the necessary resources and specialist expertise, particularly if it puts them potentially at a competitive disadvantage. Part of the answer on responsible plastic use is the need for businesses to collaborate. That doesn’t mean businesses stop competing, but recognises that in some areas collaboration (e.g. UK retail sector) may be both costs effective and beneficial to future success.

By using voluntary agreements businesses can together influence their wider supply chains and design more sustainable packaging solutions. Collaboration will bring forward the scale and leverage necessary to drive cost effective and environmentally friendlier solutions. A level playing field will also ensure companies do not lose out, as well as representing a reputational opportunity.

2. How far do you do you think our national policies and frameworks go towards driving the circular economy in the UK?

Specifically on plastics, that’s an interesting one - Defra’s 25-Year Environment Plan is already looking to be about 20 years out of phase with the recent plastic pledges made, for example, by major retailers. Unlike Wales and Scotland which are taking a particularly proactive lead on a range of circular economy initiatives, much of Westminster’s resources continue to be employed on Brexit. This is at the very time things are moving forward in Europe on the circular economy policy landscape. In part our national policy framework needs to incentivise the demand-side pull of quality materials through the economy. At the standard rate of Landfill Tax (England), we tax active waste at almost £90 per tonne, but make no fiscal differentiation between recycled and virgin materials.

3. Where do you see the UK in 20 years’ time in relation to plastics? Do you believe we’ll experience a ‘plastic revolution’ and see significant change, or do you think we’ll have a fight on our hands?

I’m convinced a tipping point has been reached on single-use plastic and that significant and unstoppable change will occur. However:

    • We mustn’t malign packaging more widely…it provides a range of important product benefits…..for example extending the shelf-life of perishable items, which can reduce environmental impacts and increase social value;
    • Secondly, whilst higher income nations may not directly dump plastic waste into our oceans, we have a shared responsibility when it comes to sending these materials to lower income countries for so-called reprocessing, where much of this material does end up our seas. This needs rapid progress away from linear towards innovative circular business solutions; BUT
    • We must caution against another dieselgate and ensure public confidence is maintained when charting the way forward

4. What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to plastic? If you could ban any one item of single use plastic, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to walk down the high-street and put my Subway sandwich packaging and banana skin into the same bio-bin, safe in the knowledge that both were fully biodegradable and co-treated…enabling their nutrients to be beneficially recycled.

5. Recommended reading: Do you have any recommendations as to where to go for more information for professionals looking to develop action on resource management in their organisations?

Having spent two years helping develop and draft British Standard 8001 – the world’s first guide standard for implementing circular economy principles, I would certainly recommend this document as a good starting point. It can help build understanding of the business opportunities associated with progressing circular economy objectives; develop confidence in putting associated principles at the heart of business; and recognise the wider challenges associated with moving beyond the traditional linear economic model. However, there is an urgent need for BSI to explore opportunities towards to make this standard much more widely accessible.


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