As part of World Oceans Day, numerous companies and organisations have used their media influence to raise awareness about the damage we’re doing to our ecosystem and oceans.
The display in these images (spotted locally) was organised by Corona, it is a visual depiction of the average quantity of waste found over a 2 mile stretch of beach in the UK. As you can see, much of this waste is plastic based which can be hugely harmful to wildlife.
As an ethical supplier of catering disposables, much of which is plastic based, we’re always very keen to promote the sustainable usage and correct disposal of our products. We supply large quantities of plastic glasses for events all over the UK; the vast majority of our items are either recyclable or biodegradable. Any large consumers of disposable items should always have a plan in mind to manage their waste; normally this would involve collecting the used glasses and sorting for recycling. There’s no need for items of this nature to be disposed of with regular waste and sent to landfill. We certainly don’t want to see products dumped into the oceans where they take hundreds of years to break down.
Whether you’re catering a small private party, or a large festival for hundreds of thousands of guests – we’re always happy to advise on the most ethical ways to dispose and manage any waste created. The most effective way to do your part for the oceans is to ensure your waste doesn’t end up there in the future.
World Oceans Day: http://www.worldoceansday.org/
A common theme in 2018 so far seems to revolve around eliminating our dependency on single use disposables and plastics. Often this seems to be done at a policy maker’s level without enough thought as to the implementation.
We’ve written several articles promoting the benefits of correct sortation and recycling of disposables. Rather than the blanket “ban x product from the shelf” style statements that seem so commonplace, we could drastically reduce the amount of plastics that end up in landfill by simply improving sortation and recycling facilities to allow the waste to be processed.
It’s true that our reliance on disposables can be reduced to some extent, but there will always be a demand for the items (hygiene grounds within the NHS for example). Nearly all plastics are easily processed if sent to the correct facility without contamination.
Evian is an example of a company investing in better recycling facilities and looking to promote a more sustainable use of plastics, bottles in this instance. Their aim is for all plastic bottles to be made from recycled plastics by 2020. Evian is working with governments and waste processors to secure a sufficient supply of recycled plastics to accomplish this. More details at: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/04/sponsor-content-changing-the-way-we-think-about-plastics/
Hopefully other similar companies will follow suit and get behind plastic recycling schemes.
With all the negativity circulating regarding the country’s failure to correctly sort, process and recycle plastic waste, it’s good to see some progress and innovation in the recycling world. It’s no secret that plastic waste (especially from food packaging, plastic cups, bottles etc) is a huge issue worldwide. These plastics are commonly not recycled and end up in landfill; they will then often take hundreds of years to break down.
In 2015 a scheme was trialled where plastic waste was used instead of crude oil to form the bitumen used for paving roads (see https://newatlas.com/vancouver-recycled-plastic-warm-mix-asphalt/25254/). There are numerous benefits to repurposing plastic waste in this manner, not least of which is the potential to vastly reduce plastic waste sent to landfill. Other benefits of this scheme include:
- Reduced pollution; where plastics would have been potentially been incinerated.
- Ease of recycling; bitumen can be made from Thermosets, Elastomers and Thermoplastics meaning reduced reliance on complex sorting.
- Less dependence on crude oil traditionally used in road construction.
- Plastics can be used to create a more flexible and hard-wearing surface, resistant to breakage and temperature related damage.
In Vancouver there is already widespread use of this process (https://thinkprogress.org/netherlands-company-introduces-plastic-roads-that-are-more-durable-climate-friendly-than-asphalt-ecb7c2a11a50/), even to the extent that modular premade blocks are used.
The only barrier to using waste plastics in this manner is the current lack of scalable infrastructure to collect and sort the waste plastics. With the correct investment and increase awareness of new recycling opportunities we could drastically cut the amount of plastic waste ending up in landfill.
Currently the UK seems more fixated on eliminating the usage of single-use plastics across the board, however this is a rather optimistic and short sighted goal. The simple fact of the matter is that single use plastics like plastic cups are often a necessity. Wouldn’t it be better all round to tackle the real issue here, which is the lack of correct waste collection, recycling and sortation facilities? With increased awareness, subsidies and incentives there’s enormous potential for progress.
As you’ve no doubt noticed, disposables and single-use plastics are very much in the media spotlight at the moment. Much of this started after the airing of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 in late 2017. This highlighted the environmental impact of plastics / microplastics and waste dumping on our oceans and their associated inhabitants.
Above all the series got people thinking about where their packaging goes after disposal. The public has started to question when they choose to use disposables and ask how the material is handled after we’ve finished with it. This has in-turn put pressure on high profile volume users of disposables to look at the way they handle their disposable waste.
In the news today are the results of an investigation into plastic use within the NHS (https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/nhs-guilty-binning-staggering-120-12338192). To summarise the report, the plastic waste originating from within the NHS is being disposed of with the regular waste collection. Plastic cups and disposables have their place; in the NHS they represent a sanitary and hygienic option for patients, the issue here is the mishandling of disposable products rather than the specific use of single-use plastics.
Oil based plastics are an easily recyclable commodity, almost without exception. With simple sorting and an appropriate plastic collection the large amount of plastic cups the NHS uses (334,000 per day according to this report) would be recycled and the landfill issue avoided.
We are always keen to encourage the ethical use of disposable plastics, in fact we frequently advise customers on the matter. The media coverage this report will bring should at least be a catalyst for change within the NHS, there is little excuse for not sorting plastic waste and sending it for recycling – recycling facilities are available nationwide and collection schemes widespread.