I recently attended a talk by City Girl Network and Creative Bloom, who have set out to collect and present data to brand giants such as Unilever. They hope to influence groundbreaking changes to products with their #TrashTalk campaign to safeguard the future of our planet and have set up a survey to enable your opinions to be presented to major brands. You will find a link to the survey at the bottom of this page; the more people who complete it the more influence the #TrashTalk campaign will have.
There has also been a new government consultation on plastics which has had record responses and illustrates the current appetite for change. This will be used to influence policy whereas Trash Talk will be directly presented to the brands themselves meaning you have the opportunity to make a difference at the coal face.
Why should you care?
In the UK we produce over 200 million tonnes of waste per year – that’s equivalent to over a million blue whales! Household waste is a key area to tackle and something that we can all impact and have our say. Currently, of the plastics we use only 3% are recycled in the UK (DEFRA stats).
Plastic waste will be around long after any of us – we are leaving a plastic legacy for our Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandchildren to deal with. Since Blue Planet aired on TV both the press and public are more aware of the plastic issue and I really hope that this discussion will begin to focus more on long term sustainable solutions rather than just the problem. In the interim, I am inspired by kids taking matters into their own hands, cleaning beaches and campaigning for change. As part of the 70s born plastics era who helped to create this problem I want to do my bit and I hope that you will be inspired to join me.
Change is Easy and Possible
You only need look at the success of the plastic bag charge to see how easy change can be. There has been a 90% reduction in one year by the introduction of a mere 5p charge per bag (25p total on an average shop) and it is now normal to take bags to the shop with you.
With that normalisation in mind, what would happen if all single use coffee cups were banned? Would the world fall apart? Probably not. More likely, it would become normal to either sit in instead of take away, use your reuse cup or just go without (shock horror!). Take away coffee wasn’t a thing not long ago – what has truly changed that means that this is now an essential part of our daily lives?
Consider the ‘Hidden Rucksack’
Ecological (or ‘Hidden’) Rucksacks represent the materials used and the impacts of a product that are not within the product itself – kind of like a hidden waste footprint.
An example would be an aluminium can. To make a can from virgin material it would likely be mined in Australia or South Africa, often with the social impact of turfing indigenous people off land. The carbon footprint would then start to build as it is shipped over to Iceland for the initial stage of processing to make use of their cheap hydroelectricity. It may then go to Germany to be pressed into sheets, then to the canning company where ever that may be and finally to the end manufacturer. All this leads to a high production cost from virgin material to product which in turn means aluminium has a high value. This is reflected by its high recycling rate with 75% of all aluminium ever produced remaining in productive use.
All materials have a hidden rucksack of waste, plastic included. Many are familiar with the sight of marine creatures covered in an oil spill slick – this is an extreme impact of plastic but a very real one. With the recent awareness there has been much discussion around replacing plastic in packaging / single use products however we must exercise caution in considering which materials we use. For instance the ‘Hidden Rucksack’ of paper is three times that of plastic so while it is better for our oceans it is not better for our forests. As we need both (each provide 50% the oxygen in the air we breathe) paper may not be a viable replacement. Bamboo could possibly be a good option as it has a high regrowth rate and can be successfully sustainably sourced. I would love to report that there was a simple solution but the reality is that we are going to have to look at each product, its materials and how it can be redesigned using sustainable materials or a circular closed loop recycling system.
In my opinion, reducing all packaging and getting rid of all unnecessary packaging is the best solution. In the instances where packaging is needed, we need to look for reusable and sustainable materials when all things are considered, including the hidden rucksack.
We Need Packaging to Keep Food Fresh and For Convenience, Don’t We….?
Apart from the chemicals leaching into food (which clearly counter balances the ‘freshness’ argument), there are plenty of other instances where this can be debunked. For example, over 70% of our UK apples travel from abroad, many from New Zealand. They don’t travel in plastic and seem to survive. Many things have their own ‘packaging’ which works perfectly well and yet is still double wrapped by retailers.
Yes, in some instances packed produce does last longer but in many instances packaging serves more as a convenience for the retailers than the consumer, giving them a means to up-sell or to help with their own stock taking system.
Once upon a time all our fruit and veg was loose and we survived. The difference is that we were growing local and eating seasonal. Globalisation has changed this for now but we also have the power as consumers to demand further change.
Photo by Deans Beach Cleaners
What Do You Want?
Brands and retailers are afraid of change as they think people might stop buying their products. The current packaging survey indicates that we like food packaged for convenience and speed as we no longer have time to put things in a bag to take it to the till. Are we really so lazy that we can’t add a couple of seconds onto our shop to put loose items in a reusable container?! Do we really want all this double layered wrapping that lasts forever and pollutes our environment? If this doesn’t sound right to you then please join me in having your say.
If you want to influence change and have an opinion on how products are packaged, designed and sold then now is your chance. Fill out the survey by clicking the ‘Have Your Say’ button below so that Trash Talk can present this to brands and facilitate major change.
If you are interested in learning more about the recent government consultation here is a link to the report:
Thank you for caring about our planet xoxo