The UN wants to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022 and more than 60 countries have already taken steps to eradicate single-use plastics from packaging. One of the countries following suit is India, which has recently banned single-use plastics in most of its states and union territories. With a growing number of countries jointly committing to revolutionary measures, achieving zero single-use plastics by 2022 may be more achievable than it first appeared.
To tackle the plastic pollution crisis, banning fast-moving and short-lived plastic applications is an inevitable first step. We also need to rethink how we make, use, and reuse plastics. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, unnecessary and problematic single-use plastic packaging can be eliminated through redesign and innovation. Plastic packaging should be reusable, compostable or recyclable to stay in the economy, rather than become waste and pollution.
The packaging life cycle
Many environmental threats are invisible. It’s only when assessing the entire life cycle of packaging, from the use of raw materials to disposal processes, that they all become apparent. For example, black plastic packaging, which is coloured using carbon black pigments, often ends up in landfill as it is undetectable by optical sorting systems widely used in plastics recycling – despite being fully recyclable.
There’s a long way to go yet, but shared efforts are helping to bring the vision of a new packaging landscape closer.
Making a difference
To overcome current challenges, leading brands, retailers, and packaging companies globally are collaborating under the Plastic Pact initiative, launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to work towards 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025. This might not seem like a radical development, but the plastic pledge creates a shared sense of direction, sparks innovation and enables the conditions for a system re-design. It gives businesses like Skipping Rocks Lab, which creates packaging with low environmental impact from seaweed, or Evocate Design, which grows 100% compostable packaging from mushrooms, a voice in the industry. Through transparency and effective communications of developments, businesses can create new opportunities and markets.
Communication is key
Communication processes around environmentally-friendly products and processes can contribute to a positive mental shift in society, affect policy change, lead to better governance, and support economic growth. Engaging with and informing stakeholders across the B2B landscape on what works, both commercially and for the environment, is key to supporting the transition towards a circular economy.
With the right communications around their sustainability initiatives, businesses can ensure positive brand associations and position themselves as leaders in their fields when it comes to their sustainable and profitable business models. BDB Sustain helps businesses to uncover their sustainability initiatives, identify communication opportunities and provide guidance on how to articulate their sustainability stories.
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 UN Environment, ‘UN declares war on ocean plastic’, [website], http://web.unep.org/unepmap/un-declares-war-ocean-plastic
 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, ‘ Eleven companies take major step towards a New Plastics Economy’, [website], 2018, https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/news/11-companies-take-major-step-towards-a-new-plastics-economy