Global packaging waste is a major issue and plastics are firmly in the firing line.
Today, we’re living among 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic, as reported by National Geographic. If current trends continue, in another 30 years we'll share our oceans, forests and landfill sites with another 4 billion tonnes of the stuff.
The causes are clear. Plastics are made to last, yet out track record on recycling leaves plenty to be desired.
91% of all plastic ever produced has NOT been recycled (National Geographic)
Without doubt, us humans are leaving a big paw print on the planet. The stats are horrendous. But, is recycling really that ineffective?
As with most things, there's more to the story than the headline.
To mark National Recycling Week in the UK, we've dug a little deeper. The good news? We've unearthed three reasons for cautious optimism. Momentum is leaning in favour of positive change, so let's take a closer look at the numbers.
1. NOT ALL PLASTIC IS EQUAL
A recent study by the University of California found that 40% of all plastic is packaging used just once, and then thrown away.
In a world inhabited by 7.5 billion people, there should be no doubt.
There is NO place on this planet for ANY product which is made to last 100 lifetimes, yet designed for use in a fleeting moment.
The big issue with single-use plastic is its small size. The low weight and cheap polymer choice for single-use plastics make them tricky to recycle cost-effectively. Instead, it often goes straight to landfill or for incineration. Manufacturers are increasingly switching materials for single-use items, but that hasn't stopped Trump selling $500,000 worth of single-use, plastic campaign straws in an outright rejection of the issue.
By boycotting single-use packaging in favour of more sustainable alternatives, we have an enormous opportunity to make a meaningful dent in our waste issue.
2. NOT ALL COUNTRIES ARE EQUAL
Developed countries recycle more while developing nations are careless with their waste, right? Not so! You'd be forgiven for believing that societal wealth is an indicator of people's willingness to recycle. In reality, that's not the case.
India leads the international recycling league table with a sizeable 60% recycling rate for plastics. In Europe, it's somewhere between 30% and 41%, depending on your source. USA, the world's largest economy, recycled just 9% of its plastic. More important than our wealth is our attitude. As individuals and as a collective society we can lead the way to a more sustainable future.
3. WE'RE GETTING BETTER AT IT
Recycling rates have increased by +74% over the past 10 years across Europe. Greater awareness, new technologies and public policy are driving improvements in both our willingness and ability to recycle.
There's still a long way to go. Whether you're recycling 9% in Michigan, or 60% in Mumbai, the urgency for change is clear.
The #GlobalClimateStrike on Friday the 20th September 2019 marked a change in the tide. From Sydney to New York we are awakening in ever greater numbers to the need to tackle our Climate Crisis in all its forms. Whether it's carbon driven climate change or taking responsibility for our waste the time for action is now.
To live with nature, rather than drown it in our left-overs, we need to find ways to do more with less. Fewer resources per walking-talking human on our planet, less carbon in our trailblazing footprint and less packaging in landfill, whatever the material.
So how do we tackle waste, while enjoying the things we love, especially when they're all packaged-up?
Before writing-off packaging in its entirety, we should give credit where it's due. It keeps our products fresh. It helps us spot the stuff we like from the stuff we don't. It's even used to share life-saving information on things like allergens. But when all is said and done, packaging can mostly be divided into two sorts:
/ good, environmentally friendly packaging./ bad, plain ugly, so-wasteful-it-makes-us-angry packaging.
Brands have a huge role to play in giving us more of the first, and less of the latter. But as individuals, we have the power to make a difference too. And we can make a difference by doubling down and going back to the basics. It all starts with a roar (of sorts). We need to G'RRR.
G’RRR! G'RRR like you've never G'RRR'ed before.Get Reducing. Reusing. Recycling.And growl too, if it makes you feel good.
Reducing is minimalism in action. It’s all of us buying less of what we don’t need. It’s the people who make the things we love, making it from, well… less of the unnecessary stuff that wraps the things we love!
Reusing is refilling drinks bottles, wearing last year’s dark denim when everyone's wearing light, and it's dusting-off your old GameBoy instead of buying the new retro release.
And when you've still bought something, and you’re finding yourself clean-out of up-cycling inspiration. Recycling is where it’s at.
The chances are you're already recycling. But it's a little known fact that recycling rates don't just vary by country, they vary by house, and even by room!
Only 50% of packaging is recycled in the bathroom vs. 90% in the kitchen. (Soil Association Report, Tap Warehouse study 2019)
But why do we struggle to recycle our toiletries and beauty products?
More eco-friendly packaging design in an industry driven by aesthetics would certainly help. The use of "flushable wipes" containing plastic fibres are partly to blame too. And then there's the issue with the kitchen sink being closer to the recycling bin than the bathroom basin.
So, here's our 3 step plan to tackling our packaging crisis one product at a time, with our 3 step plan.
- Boycott single-use plastics (including wipes with plastic fibres)
- Buy recycled
- Empty. Rinse. Recycle when you're done
Proudly, this is where we're making a stand.
It's the reason we started SKIN SAPIENS; to empower people to make better choices for their skin, and the planet.
It’s why all our products are packaged using the highest possible recycled material, even if it costs us more to do it.
It's why all of our bottles are made from 100% recycled British drink bottles.
It's why our paper cartons and face cream tubes are made from more than 50% recycled material.
It’s also why the true percentage of recycled content is on ALL of our packaging is marked on every product.
As a team, we're putting our energy, heart and soul into making that commitment come true. When we do that, and you go on to recycle what we make, together we’re taking REAL positive ACTION on plastic waste. Falling short on that commitment, would just, well… be falling short.
Mark national recycling week and join us in taking action. Get recycling. If you already recycle, recycle more, ditch single-use items and go the extra mile, buy recycled.
Oh and if you live in the UK, or are a UK citizen abroad, why not sign and share our e-petition? Here, we’re asking the UK Government to incentivise a circular economy, making it even easier to buy recycled.
Fight today for a better tomorrow, because there’s no planet B.
James and the team