October Top 10 Sustainability Headlines
We can hardly catch our breath after this month. To say October was groundbreaking would be a serious understatement. New legislature, new reports, a new understanding of the impacts of human activity on the planet, wildlife, oceans, and even our own bodies. Never before has the situation felt so dire and never before has there been so much inspiring action. If there’s anything we’ve learned from October, it’s that we’ve arrived at a critical moment – now is the time for all of us, government, business, and citizens alike, to make drastic changes.
1. ‘Unprecedented Changes’ Needed to Stop Global Warming as UN Report Reveals Islands Starting to Vanish and Coral Reefs Dying
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that if we don’t make drastic changes, there will be catastrophic environmental consequences. If we are able to keep the global temperature below 1.5C we might avoid the damage, however scientists project that within 20 years we will have already exceeded this temperate – by the end of the century, we’d already arrive at 3C warmer. But that’s only if nothing changes. If government, citizen, and technology move quickly enough, we can avoid, for one, 10 million coastal/island regions people losing their homes to rising sea levels. The IPCC imparts an urgency that many environmental organisations are hoping to see government embrace as well.
What this means for you (and us!): This is the time to get serious about making changes for the planet. We have a crucial few years ahead, what will you do you to make your impact?
2. This is the ‘Last Generation’ that Can Save Nature, WWF Says
This is the ‘last generation’ that can save nature, WWF says
What does it mean to save nature? At it’s most basic level, it’s protecting species and ecosystems. According to WWF, we’re not doing a great job of it. Global wildlife populations have fallen by 60% due to human activity just in the last 40 years – that’s drastic decline in just 4 decades. Chief Executive of WWF UK has uttered some haunting words, “We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet and the last one that can do anything about it.” WWF is pleading for international action over the next two years; they want to see serious targets set with urgency, before it’s too late.
3. In a First, Microplastics Found in Human Poop
We all know that plastic has been found inside all types of animals, both land and sea. And guess what? It’s in our human bodies, too! For the first time, micro-plastics have officially been found in….human poop. Yes, that’s right. We are eating our waste, and it’s showing up in our waste. We don’t yet know where exactly these microplastics are coming from (could it be salt? Fish? Or even from the small fibres of our household plastics?). Nor are we clear on whether they have entered our bloodstream or lymphatic system yet. One thing is for certain though: it’s in our bodies and it’s in our toilets and we’re scared.
4. Plastic Recycling Industry’s Problems Costing Councils Up to £500,000 a Year
Last December China stopped the import of plastic waste from foreign countries – including the UK. And now other countries are likely soon jumping on board. This is pretty concerning given that two-thirds of UK plastic packaging waste was previously exported. To make things significantly worse, there have been serious allegations of fraud in the plastic exportation industry which has led many to deduce that UK plastics packaging isn’t getting recycled at all, but instead is left to leak into our natural environment (read: our oceans). And the snowball continues to grow: councils’ costs have increased now without a market for their plastic waste. With the sharp reality that plastics might not be getting recycled anyway, some councils are considering stopping plastics collections for recycling altogether. Seems we’re in a pretty tough spot for now.
What does this mean for you: if you are using plastic packaging, consider switching to packaging that includes recycled plastic content. This way, you are helping stimulate the recycling economy and relieving pressure from the councils by investing in the market for recycled plastics. And beyond food and drink packaging, consider buying products that are made from recycled material. The more we buy, the larger the market for recycled plastic, the more plastic gets recycled! It’s simple supply and demand.
5. Plastic Oceans: MEPs Back EU Ban on Throwaway Plastics by 2021
Here ye, here ye: the EU has banned some of the most problematisingle-usese plastic items, in effect 2021! If you’re thinking that’s some of the most ground-breaking environmental news you’ve heard in a long time, we’re right there with you. Think plastic plates, cutlery, straws, balloons, cotton buds…all banned. And that’s not all, they’ve placed steep targets and restrictions on some of the other major players in marine pollution: cigarette butts and fishing gear. Looks like the EU is taking this pollution stuff seriously.
What this means for you: This could be the type of change that keeps our species, animal species, and our planet alive and thriving. As a human race, this hopefully represents significant progress. It is reasonable to start thinking about what could be next on the ban list and how this might impact your business.
6. Government Proposes UK-Wide Ban on Plastic Straws, Stirrers and Cotton Buds for Next Year
And soon to come in the UK? That’ll be a collection of policies that ban three specific items: plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton buds by 2020. But first, the Government will be hosting a consultation into how they can work with business and industry to make for a smooth transition. In the policies will be included exemptions for the use of plastic straws for medical reasons (read more about criticism of plastic straw bans by people with disabilities). Some feel this ban is treating the symptoms of the plastic problem and not the illness itself; the FPA maintains that the Government’s focus should be on PRN reform.
What this means for you: That’s easy: no more plastic straws, stirrers, or cotton buds available on the market in a few years. You should start thinking reusable or sustainable alternatives!
7. UK Budget 2018
And here’s the big, big one for all of us. Philip Hammond has announced the 2018 Budget. If you are really keen and want to read the whole thing, click here. If you want the BBC’s helpful summary, click here. For the environmental highlights, read on!
Single Use Plastics Tax
New Tax Alert! From April 2022 and pending a consultation with industry, there will be a tax on all plastic packaging that does not contain a minimum of 30% recycled plastic. They’re hoping this will incentive manufacturers to create more sustainable packaging. Where will the money raised through the tax go? Unclear as of yet, but we are told the money will go to “address single-use plastics, waste and litter.”
Packaging Producer Responsibility System Reform
The ‘how’ of this is not yet completely clear, but the Government has included their aim to increase producer responsibility and will incentivise manufacturers to design packaging that is easier to recycle and penalise the use of the those that aren’t.
Are they moving forward with the Latte Levy?
Still no. The Government is looking to business and industry to turn the tide toward reuse. Unless they don’t, and then the Government will intervene. Otherwise, we’ll be hearing more about how they endeavor to tackle cup waste in the upcoming Resources and Waste Strategy. Essentially, Government has told us to watch this space. So, we will!
Other Eco Relevant Uses of Budget
Tree Planting – To combat carbon emissions and support wildlife, the Government will support the planting of 10 million trees and will provide £10 million for urban tree planting as well.
Abandoned Waste Site Clearance – £10 million will go to help the Environmental Agency clear the worst abandoned waste sites in local communities.
Avoiding Food Waste- £15 million will go to charities and other organisations to help distribute the surplus food generated to minimise food waste.
Plastics and Waste Innovation Funding – And the star of the show: plastics! £20 million will go to the plastic and recycling efforts: £10 for plastics R&D and £10 for innovation in recycling and litter prevention.
What does this mean for you: We’re certain it’s a lot. But until the consultation takes place and the final decisions are taken, we won’t know exactly how this will impact you or us. The good news is that if you’d like to preempt the changes and start using compliant products that already use 30% or more recycled material, you can find that in our Revive range. In any case, this all represents some significant upcoming changes in the industry, we’ll keep you up to date as we learn more. For now, start taking a critical eye to the plastics your business uses and if you’d like some support to consider sustainable alternatives on the food/drink packaging side of things, give us a shout at [email protected] or 0207 471 3700 – we’re here to help.
8. Budget 2018: Environmental Groups Condemn Lack of Commitment to Tackle Climate Change and Wildlife Declines
Criticism abounds for the Budget 2018’s approach to dealing with the environmental issues that face us today. Take a read of this article which outlines some of the challenges many environmental organisations are pointing to. Overall, many believe the action being taken isn’t commensurate with the severity of the planet’s state given the recent reports on climate change and at-risk wildlife (see above). Take a read and decide for yourself – is this budget doing enough for our planet?
9. Plastics Recycled Content Tax Gets the Thumbs-Up
Well, the Budget has been announced – as you’ll see in number 8 above. One of the items is a new tax to manufacturers on all packaging that does not contain at least 30% recyclable material. At first glance, this is fantastic, but is it too good to be true? Read this article to read some of the industry experts’ take on the tax. Reactions range from full-on support to strong criticism that it’s not enough to address the full spectrum of the plastics issue.
10. Global Commitment Aims To Eliminate Plastic Pollution At Source
Oh Ellen MacArthur Foundation, thank you for giving us hope when we most need it. The Foundation has just unveiled a new Global Commitment to eliminate plastic waste and solution at the source. They’ve gotten 290+ organisations, representing 20% of all plastic packaging production, to commit to three major targets: 1) to reduce plastic packaging and move to more reuse packaging models, 2) to reach 100% of plastic packaging being reused, recycled, or composted by 2025, 3) Increase reuse and recycling of plastics into new packaging and products. This is major news. Within the 290 organisation is the likes of major FMCG corporations: Coca-Cola, Unilever, Johnson + Johnson, PepsiCo and Nestle. Do you think they can do it? We say an optimistic, “yes!”