Refusing Means Developing Circular Systems

If you listen to a segment of our society you will hear there is a need for more drilling for gas and oil. We  people of the earth want our electricity which definitely helps improve the standard of living. And some people in positions of power seem to see little need to spend more attention on developing technologies with alternative energies that can provide what we need without similar environmental impacts.

We also apparently want a lot of water in plastic bottles and the like, and those are NOT a necessity. There are options for that most of the time where we live. With the exception of a degraded water supply, the stuff coming out of our taps is usually drinkable here in the United States.  Essentially, anyone living here should be able to use refillable bottles and never buy a plastic one-time-use water bottle except in an emergency.

So, we can REFUSE to buy those water bottles.  And the companies that sell them will begin to get the message when their sales drop. They will hear us louder if we actually communicate with them.

And then, still wanting to make money, they will try to develop solutions that will consider alternative packaging. That packaging may be something we can re-use, but if they can’t find that, they will develop a return-to-the-manufacture policy that will put the onus on them to find a solution.

With the expense of drilling, refining and then manufacturing, plastics are pretty expensive to produce. You would think that a way to capture more than the 6-10% that is supposedly recycled in the US would increase, just because of the cost of new production. The recycling costs, however, are also expensive and companies would have to spend to build new infrastructure to take care of the problem.

It is a problem they make. But it is a problem we also cause with our demand.

Up until China closed the door to our trash we were happy to send our garbage “away”. We felt good because we could send them so much of our recyclable materials that our rate of recycling rose and in communities like McMinnville, we saw good reduction of what went to the landfill.

So, we have been forced to re-examine just what kind of life style our garbage tells about us and look for solutions.  Finding the point where businesses can still sell products and make a profit, where we consumers can obtain items we enjoy, AND where the earth is not being mistreated is difficult, but it exists!

circular economy considerations
source: recycling today

Some corporations have been making changes over the past decade and some more are coming on with efforts to decrease the amount their products influence our flow of trash.

Unilever is a huge corporation that makes a lot of products and I think many of us have items in our homes, many in plastic containers.

global-brazil-recycling-plastics-040517_tcm244-504557_w940
source: Unilever

Beach clean-up projects have inventoried collected plastics and Unilever is joined by others in the predominant plastic trash found.  Over 10,000 volunteers across 42 countries took on the world’s most ambitious plastic cleanup and brand audit project yet. Nine months, six continents, 239 cleanup events, and more than 187,000 pieces of trash later, we now have the most comprehensive snapshot to date of how corporations are contributing to the global plastic pollution problem.

They are, in order from most to least commonly found in global brand audits:

  1. Coca-Cola
  2. PepsiCo
  3. Nestlé
  4. Danone
  5. Mondelez International
  6. Procter & Gamble
  7. Unilever
  8. Perfetti van Melle
  9. Mars Incorporated
  10. Colgate-Palmolive

    Image result for plastic in ocean corporate audit
    source: Greenpeace

How plastics end up in the ocean is a problem that is being worked on around the globe, but please realize that the amount equivalent to one garbage truck load each minute ends up in the ocean.

No longer wanting to be the originator for that mess, In January 2017, Unilever committed to ensuring that 100% of their plastic packaging will be designed to be fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Here are their considerations:

  1. Rethinking how we design our products: using our Design for Recyclability guidelines that we launched in 2014 and revised in 2017, we’re exploring areas such as modular packaging, design for disassembly and reassembly, wider use of refills, recycling and using post-consumer recycled materials in innovative ways.
  2. Driving systemic change in circular thinking at an industry level: such as through our work with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Global Plastics Protocol.
  3. Working with governments to create an environment that enables the creation of a circular economy, including the necessary infrastructure to collect and recycle materials.
  4. Working with consumers in areas such as recycling – to ensure they’re clear on different disposal methods (eg recycling labels in the US) – and collection facilities (eg Waste Bank in Indonesia).
  5. Exploring radical and innovative approaches to circular economy thinking through new business models.

Read about their plans to redesign their product containers involves using more recycled materials and making sure all new packaging is recyclable or compostable.

It is important to encourage them and others to make these changes. Most are inspired by the way the world almost completely agreed in Davos about ways to improve environmental impacts that are our responsibility. But corporations will need help from governments. As a citizen I would prefer no new tax cuts to provide incentive, but perhaps a tax hike to cover other infrastructure solutions if the corporations do not instill them themselves.

Again, our best first step is to REFUSE but writing to offer support for a more sustainable package will help them move in the right direction.

 

 

 

 

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