2018 has been an extremely challenging year for the recycling industry. Global changes have caused commodity markets to plummet and severely disrupt the norm for recycling stakeholders. Fortunately, the positive outcomes resulting from the global recycling crisis are gaining. Over the past several months, announcements pertaining to sustainable options for single-use plastics have permeated the waste news. Highlighted below are some of the monumental movements that are influencing leaders in all sectors to drive organizational change with materials management and supply chain standard operating procedures.
First, research by the Ellen MacArthur foundation projects by 2025 there will be 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish in our oceans and, by 2050, plastics will outnumber fish. Of the 9 billion tons of plastic created since 1950 when mass production of plastic began, ~7 billion tons remain today in our waste. According to a paper published in Science Advances, only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled. This study also found 1) half of the resins and fibers used in plastics were produced just in the last 13 years; 2) plastics manufacturing has roughly doubled every 15 years, outpacing nearly every other man-made material; and, 3) at least half of all plastic manufactured becomes trash in less than a year, unlike most other materials used.
Second, recycling alone won’t solve this and alternatives to plastics can consume more energy and resources so the priority must be to reduce waste. Landfills are known to be a primary emitter of methane gas, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas (GHG) in the US, but methane gas comprises only 8% of greenhouse gases. Yet, methane is approximately 20 times more potent than the number one GHG, carbon dioxide, with 86 times the global warming potential. More accurately, though, factoring in GHG emissions from manufacturing, processing, transporting, packaging, and, consuming, to the GHG emissions calculated for disposing the waste byproduct, reveals the true GHG emissions of trash: Per EPA, materials management and food systems account for 42% of all GHG emissions.
LEADERSHIP: Waste Reduction Commitments – Single Use Plastic Elimination
Dunkin Donuts: ditch foam cups by 2020
Target: eliminate polystyrene packaging
Colgate-Palmolive: pledge to make all plastics packaging recyclable and to use 50% recycled content by 2020
McDonald’s: eliminate polystyrene foam cups globally by 2019; packaging will come from sustainable sources by 2025 and 100% of its restaurants will recycle packaging by 2025, worldwide
Walt Disney Co: ban single us plastic straws and stirrers, eliminate polystyrene cups, reduce single use plastic bags in its parks, and, return to refillable amenities in its hotels and cruise ships
MA Plastic Bag Ban: ban on single use plastic bags in 81 cities and towns in Massachusetts
Countries with Plastic Bag Bans: Chile, China, Kenya, UK, Australia, France (which also said it would ban plastic plates and cups by 2020)
Plastic Straw Bans: venues, restaurants, retail stores, airlines, cruise lines, companies, corporations, cities, states, and, countries that have; moreover, as a nominal amount of waste, this is the impetus for identifying resolutions to our consumption of all single-use plastics versus signifying a meaningful impact on trash volume, litter or pollution
Plastic Microbead Bans: [in cosmetics] US, Canada, UK, New Zealand, France, Sweden, Taiwan
100% Sustainable Packaging: reduce packaging and convert to 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 is one goal 42 conglomerates such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Amcor, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, Birdseye and Nestle agreed to via the UK Plastics Pact; several of the multinational companies are also extending practices to their US operations
Polystyrene Phase Out: As You Sow is working with many leading fast food, beverage and consumer packaged goods corporations on phasing out polystyrene foam packaging including Starbucks, Amazon, Campbell Soup, Kraft Heinz, Keurig, Kroger and Walmart