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Benefit from cutting plastic

by Madeleine Speed (11 June 2018)

Benefit from cutting plastic

What are you never more than six feet away from? The answer used to be 'a rat' but now it is probably 'some plastic waste'. The threat to the environment from plastic stems from its very success as a versatile and durable material. It is estimated that 2.26 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste was generated in Britain in 2015. Some ends up in landfill but far too much gets into the wider environment where it causes a nuisance to people and threatens wildlife. In January 2018, Theresa May launched a 25-year environment plan for the UK Government which outlined measures to combat avoidable plastic. The Government pledged to demonstrate global leadership on this issue. The UK plans to "reduce the demand for plastic, reduce the number of plastics in circulation and improve our recycling rates." This will mean businesses will have to change how they use plastics.

Plastic and your business

You may feel that the build up of plastics and the wider issues of climate change are irrelevant to your business. However, many customers want demonstrable evidence of a company's environmental and social policies before buying goods or services. So, ignoring plastic use may not be in your company’s best interest. If you take a stand and introduce sustainable business practices you might safeguard your business against wasted resources and sullying a good reputation. In fact, you could use the issue to increase engagement with your suppliers and customers.

How to take action?

So what can be done to reduce over reliance on plastics and one-use plastic packaging? If you haven’t already done so, review where your company uses plastic, where it all comes from and where it goes to. You could then explore whether there are more sustainable and better value alternatives. There's a simple approach available to help any business to review its use of resources. It can be applied to plastics but it can also be used with any key resource (such as energy, water, materials or staff time). This approach – the  'resource’ or ‘waste’ hierarchy - provides a way of identifying where the value of a particular material lies. Sending plastic to landfill, for example, is ranked at the bottom of the hierarchy because there are no benefits to your or the environment of having to pay for disposing of it as waste. Having reviewed your plastics, look at those that cause the biggest risk to reputation and costs. Then start speaking to your team, to suppliers and to customers about how you might tackle the issue. If you would like more help with putting actions into place or in engaging with suppliers, then please get in touch.