Sustainability trends | How can we change our relationship with plastic?
Cutting down on excess plastic packaging will continue to be one of the biggest sustainability conversations over the next decade, and its outcome will have a big impact on both businesses and consumers. It seems that in most parts of our world the tide is finally turning on our relationship with single-use plastics. This has been driven to a large extent by environmental activists and journalists raising awareness of plastic pollution in our oceans and its impact on ocean life, acidification and the food and water we consume.
The packaging industry is the single biggest producer of plastics. Every year we make over 300 million tonnes of plastic. Roughly half of it is produced for packaging, which is over twice the amount produced for building and construction. Well over 90% of that packaging plastic is wasted and never recycled, so targeting this industry is very important in the fight for sustainability.
High profile environmentalists and broadcasters continue to bring attention to the horrific negative impact such massive plastic production and waste has on our planet. In line with this, consumers are becoming more aware of the products they buy and how they are packaged.
This consumer-led drive to cut down on the use of nonrecyclable plastics is well underway and it’s a trend that will snowball in the coming decade. A significant number of consumers across all demographic groups are willing to call-out businesses on the needless use of disposable plastics or vote with their feet when it comes to boycotting retailers with poor plastic credentials.
While plastic reduction will continue to trend, will it be enough to help reverse ecological challenges? Much remains to be seen. The damage done so far is staggering. Each year, over eight million metric tons of plastic waste ends up in our oceans, with 100,000 mammals and over one million seabirds killed by consuming it. Fixing this will require every business and consumer to go green in a much bigger and bolder way.