Sitting at a Crossroads on Single Use Plastics
Following an interview on BBC Breakfast Live in August, our CEO, Phil Wild, reflects on how the global discussion on single use plastics is bringing both the consumer and businesses closer together to develop sustainable processes to tackle an issue of international concern.
This week I took a trip to BBC World in London to meet presenters David Eades and Vishala Sri-Pathma and discuss what we’re doing in terms of sustainable innovation; specifically, our CupCycling™ initiative.
I arrived at the BBC and headlines across all national newspapers told me that consumers are looking ahead. They are seeing past their own experience in the ‘here and now’ – beyond that of their morning coffee – and seeing its entire journey to landfill. The news is warning that scrutiny of single-use plastic and how it’s used is at an all-time high. There’s speculation that businesses should brace themselves for a consumer backlash.
Research published in the press says that just a third of supermarket plastic and packaging is recyclable. This news has featured alongside a pledge from Walkers that the 11 million packets a day produced at its Leicester factory will be 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025. Lewis Hamilton waded into the debate this week too, urging consumers to think about where the plastics they purchase end up. He asked his six million plus Instagram followers to stop supporting companies that are ‘blindly fixated on profits at the expense of our planet’.
In my view the conversation has officially reached fever pitch.
But amongst the doom and gloom is a shining light of optimism. No, the bigger picture is not good; two and a half billion disposable cups are used in the UK alone every year. Few are fully recycled. However, innovation is coming at a rate of knots and businesses across the UK are aligned with the consumer – both acknowledging the need for change and are willing to put their money where their mouth is.
Through our CupCycling™ initiative - the world’s first recycling process dedicated to upcycling take-away cups – we’re able to work with supply chain partners and brands to drastically reduce the number of take-away cups estimated to be thrown away in the UK each year. Costa is a brilliant example – the company’s pledge to upcycle 500 million cups a year is underway and we are working with them to reach their goal.
This story stretches beyond the realm of beautiful paper too; our COLOURFORM™ process can take coffee cups and turn them into renewable, recyclable, moulded fibre packaging. The message is clear – plastic just isn’t the answer anymore.
We’re not alone. More and more businesses are scrutinising their waste management, or considering how they work and what they produce. They want to develop sustainable processes and packaging and they’re coming to us and our peers to see how together we can find a solution.
Recently we met with a relatively new customer and presented some ideas as to how we can work with them to reduce their use of single use plastics. They considered our solution cost effective, innovative and a real contender as to how they can do things in a better way. They were hungry - right down to the very last detail - to make it one hundred percent plastic free. Their dedication was palpable and frankly, a sign of the times for all companies. The likes of Lewis Hamilton jumping on board, and warnings of a backlash show that the consumer is on board, too.
So, for us, we find ourselves at a cross roads; the consumer is ready, we have the technology and we continue to innovate. In addition, more and more companies are scrutinising their footprint when it comes to using plastic. It’s exciting - and really very hopeful.
If you’d like to hear more, or find out how James Cropper can support your commitment to sustainability, my team is set to host a webinar at the end of this month. You’ll hear how our collaboration across the supply chain - with retailers such as Lush, Selfridges and Costa – have helped to overcome some of today’s key environmental challenges. Take a look here.