Plastic Is Not The Problem
A couple of years ago the release of Blue Planet II called for the world to cut back the use of plastic in order to protect its oceans. This led to an enormous rise of plastic fears which have been increasing ever since. This was undoubtedly a very important message that we needed to hear, however what the programme failed to tell us was where the overwhelming amount of pollution is coming from.
A survey carried out in 2016 by a Californian research team concluded between 8 and 9 million tonnes of plastic waste is being dumped in the oceans every year. This was a point raised on Blue Planet, however there was no mention of where the plastic was being dumped. In fact, 90% of those billions of tonnes of plastic waste came from just 10 rivers, all located in South East Asia and the Indian Sub-Continent. China being number 1 in terms of pollution with 40% of all waste being attributed to them. Indonesia, Vietnam and India making up another 30% of that waste. It is policy for these countries to dump their waste into rivers rather than dispose of it responsibly. This is not something that is happening by accident. 
Is it not time we put pressure on these countries to stop the practise of ocean dumping, rather than giving the impression that if we stop drinking from plastic straws, we can save the effects of global warming from happening?
There have been calls for the reduction of plastic packaging and Andy Clarke, the former boss of Asda said that supermarkets should stop the use of plastic packaging all together. While this was a step in the right direction for large corporations to do their bit to save the planet, the demand to replace plastic, more specifically plastic packaging is not as simple as it seems to have been suggested. Materials such as paper board, glass or aluminium tins use far more of the earths resources to manufacture and generate much higher CO₂ emissions.
It is calculated around £1.2bn worth of food is wasted each year. However, this type of waste accounts for only 20% of the UK’s CO₂ emissions. Plastic problems in the UK primarily come from rubber tyres and synthetic fibres escaping into the sea from our cars and washing machines. In countries where plastic food packaging is not use widely, up to 50% of their fresh food is wasted. There is far too much waste across all sectors and this is something which needs to be addressed and dealt with on a global scale.
Whilst other packaging materials may appear to be more sustainable, they also weigh much more than plastic. A paper bag is 3-4 times heavier than a plastic one, a glass bottle 5-6 times the weight of a plastic one and aluminium cans nearly 10 times as much as a plastic pouch. The alternatives add much more to the weight and volume of packaging waste produced. The weight of these materials when being transported results in more vehicles on the road, increasing CO₂ emissions.
Approximately 80% of all plastics are recyclable. 100% of plastic bottles are recyclable. Plastic is the perfect material for packing, low cost, light weight and much less environmentally damaging than the alternatives!
Plastic is not the problem. It is what people do with it that is.
Inspired by Barry Twigg, Chairman of National Flexibles article in FMCG CEO magazine.