With viewing figures in excess of 10.3 million the nation has been enthralled with the acclaimed marine life documentary Blue Planet II. We were both fascinated and disgusted by a bird-eating fish during the opening episode. But episode four shocked many viewers, we learnt how plastic pollution in our oceans is killing wildlife. A combination of physical waste and chemical pollution from plastics is seriously affecting the eco-balance of oceans, and in turn the survival rates of sea creatures.
300 million tons of plastic is produced globally each year. Plastic has been around in one form or another since the 1800. Since the 1950’s and its mass adoption in manufacturing processes the safe disposal plastic has largely been unregulated. Apart from the obvious use of plastic in items we purchase and the packaging that contains those items it’s even used within products such as cleaners. Micro-beads in cleaners are used as an abrasive, they eventually find their way into the oceans. There are currently Five trillion pieces of microplastic in oceans, with one rubbish truck load added every minute.
It’s only now producers and governments, under pressure from action groups and lobbyists, are beginning to put in place measures to reduce the amount produced and how it’s recycled.
The environmental awareness of consumers is also driving change within our industry. The continued growth of the importance of sustainability in packaging design is making it less of a trend and more a mandatory start point for many producers and designers. Sustainability programs are increasingly being seen as a source of innovation that can help in differentiating a company by appealing to the consciences of consumers.
In this country we’re all now familiar with the “carrier bag tax” and its eco-alternative the Bag for Life, which helped reduce the use of single-use carrier bags by 80%. But it’s not only the supermarkets and consumers that need to action change, brands must make a serious commitment to clean up their acts.
Consumers are informed and all-powerful. But if brands fail to rethink and embrace change in terms of the use of plastics in packaging and within actual product, consumers will switch brands to ones that align more with their own ethics and beliefs.
The Method and Ecover products launched with packaging made from plastic reclaimed from the ocean hugely impressed us. Ecover use 50% ‘ocean’ plastic in their packaging, whilst Method have 100% recycled materials within their 1-PET bottles. Even larger producers are now committing seriously to the green agenda, P&G have said that by mid 2018 they will be using 100% recycled materials in their bottles with 10% of that coming from oceans.
Most big brands have sustainability commitments for packaging and many other aspects of how the business works from transport to heating and waste management. Some including Philips, Coca-Cola and ASDA even have a dedicated resource responsible for sustainable packaging and set clear sustainable targets for their brands to hit.
There are many ways that brands can embrace change; by downsizing/reducing weight of packaging, increased use of recycled content, increased use of renewably sourced materials, logistical efficiency and increased recycling information and waste recovery. Giving further onward use to your packaging is also a key trend.
We are all consumers, but we really need to be consumers with a conscience, leaving a positive legacy by encouraging and committing to a change for good.