The war on waste continues. We win some battles and are still losing others. While there is much more awareness on the part of most societies there is also a lot of misinformation out there. The outcome of the war still hangs in the balance.
Awareness on the part of the public is much greater. More than one person has apologized when buying plastic bottled water in my presence. A shopper recently set social media alight when she bought meat from a supermarket using an ice cream tub she supplied rather than use its packaging. However, while these small steps are welcome they may be detracting from the real war.
The real war is about the manufacture of plastic materials and the use thereof. Let me be clear – I am not against the use of plastic, there are many benefits. Simplistically however, until mankind learns to behave around plastic I believe we should eradicate its use as far as possible.
It’s not plastic that’s the enemy, it’s our behaviour around plastic
At an industry level the focus is now on developing bio-degradable plastics. Some organizations are advertising the sale of bio-degradable plastic bags. Recently someone appeared on national tv claiming to have developed a plastic which dissolved in water.
Orasa will shortly be hosting a seminar on bio-degradable plastics at which the science behind bio-degradability will be debated. We certainly need more consensus and agreement on standards and claims about bio-degradability. But is this enough?
There are a number of organizations tackling the plastic problem at government and industry level. A good example of this is Wrap. Its members accept that they are responsible for producing 80% of the plastic being distributed through supermarkets. They have therefore committed to removing 8 problem plastics by 2020.
Our war on plastic starts with agreement between you, government, industry and business
The Plastics Pact is an agreement between government, business, local authorities and citizens to tackle plastic pollution. It has agreed a set of targets for 2025 which will eliminate and resolve the way some plastics are made, used and recovered. Big business is happy to be seen to be onside with the pact. And this is what will make the difference.
When big business and governments are coerced into taking action by pressure from lobby groups and the public then real change can happen. We all need to contribute and no contribution is too small. Dealing with plastic at source will, in my opinion, be more effective in reducing plastic pollution. Like Greta Thunberg the pact has added a sense of urgency which was previously lacking.
The Department of Environmental Affairs, WWF – SA and SAPRO are busy developing a SA version of the pact. Wrap and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation are assisting with this. When this is launched we will see some change at a higher level. The war on plastic is not lost yet.