Plastic pollution has moved into the public spotlight over the past year. The blue planet effect has highlighted the impact of human activity on marine life, with Sir David Attenborough calling for public participation on reducing plastic pollution in the popular wildlife documentary series, Blue Planet II. We have witnessed the toll of the toxicity floating in our seas as marine life wash up on beaches across the world, such as the 6-tonne sperm whale that appeared on the Spanish coastline at the beginning of 2018 after ingesting 30 kilograms of trash. This is just a small snapshot of our problem with plastics.
Earlier this year, on June 8, World Oceans Day compelled us to focus on the plastic pandemic affecting the world and encourage solutions for cleaner, plastic free Oceans. Since the 1950s, we have produced nearly 9-billion tonnes of plastic globally. At over one tonne of plastic per person, scientists estimate two-billion tonnes are still in use, while the remainder sit beneath landfill or pollute our oceans. As we look back over a month on from Word Ocean Day, is your business still fighting to end plastic pollution?
How are nations tackling the plastic in our oceans?
Although plastic is useful, some products are solely created for single use. These include plastic bags, polystyrene cups and drinking water bottles being amongst the least sustainable type and most damagingof all plastics. They do not biodegrade, but break down into microplastics, which eventually get transferred into animal tissue through absorption and eventually enter the human food chain.
Many countries have begun working to reduce plastic bag waste. Chile has become the first country across the Americas to ban plastic bags, Asia has bans or taxes in place and Europe has been active in its fight, with Denmark being the first to charge a tax on plastic bags in 1993.Additionally, Europe and the US have recently indicated ambitions to tackle the problem of plastic-based ocean pollution head-on. In response to the crisis, many authorities are phasing out the use of plastic bags.
When managing single use plastics, business can consider the 3R’s - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle but our responsibilities start before that. Between 2013 and 2014, the commercial sector generated 17 million tonnes of waste, which is representative of just a third of Australian waste. To help combat this, we need to rethink as a precursor to reducing, reusing and recycling. Single use plastics such as plastic bottles and coffee cups have a high environmental impact. After production and transportation costs, they are often used once and mostly, for a few minutes. Have you stopped to wonder what happens after they are discarded.
How do plastic water bottles impact the environment?
When thrown in the garbage...
Unless your workplace has a robust recycling policy, bottles thrown into the garbage often end up in a landfill.
When tossed out a car window...
When plastic bottles sit in the sun for an extended period, they eventually break down into microplastics, which animals mistake for food and ingest. If not eaten, the rain can wash the plastic into a waterway from where it will start its journey into our rivers and oceans; and potentially make its way into the human food-chain.
When dropped at the beach...
The plastic may break down in the sun, but if the rubbish isn’t collected it will certainly end up in the sea. Why add to the plastic problem when you can invest in an environmentally friendly reusable bottle?
You can make sustainable choices
The time has come to encourage businesses to act on a wider scale and consider the choices that affect our environment. Waterlogic provide plastic free, plumbed-in water coolers and by switching to bottle-free solutions, you will eliminate the cost of bottled water cooler transportation, sorting and reprocessing and reduce your carbon footprint by up to 72-percent.
How to achieve a sustainable office
1. Prominently display waste containers throughout your office
If your office doesn’t dispose of all waste in an eco-friendly way, talk to your manager about arranging bins for paper, plastic, glass and food waste.
2. Provide staff with reusable water bottle and mugs
Company branded mugs and reusable bottles make a nice addition to your welcome pack for new employees. This could not only eliminate unnecessary single use but reduce your waste management costs.
3. Avoid plastic cutlery when eating on the go
Instead of using disposables, bring your own reusable cutlery and glass containers to work. You can carry these items when you step out for coffee or lunch and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
4. Invest in a bottleless water cooler
Rather than opt for the bottled water cooler, choose to plumb a water cooler into the mains water supply. You can even try an office ban on single-use water bottles when you set up your water cooler.
5. Create an office challenge to go plastic free
Plastic-Free is a growing global movement. This means for one day, you do not buy or use anything that is made of or contains plastic. This includes plastic cups, cutlery, straws and so on. This is a great way to challenge departments and teams across the business.
2018 is the year for eliminating plastics
Businesses who lead on innovation and set an example in environmental responsibility are in alignment with the values of their consumers. Furthermore, those businesses that feel a corporate social responsibility to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, might see a plastic reduction initiative as a good place to start.From the World Earth Day focus on ending plastic pollution to the determination of World Environment Day, which illustrated the risks of microplastics, we’ve learnt it’s not too late to make a change. We must act decisively and every action must tackle the scale of the issue - from manufacturers to consumers and beyond.