Lorax Compliance Environmental Blog . . .

Changes to Plastics are making waves
by Emma Mundy at 07:04 in Environmental, Packaging, Circular Economy, Emerging

In recognition of World Oceans day 2016, this month's blog is dedicated to all things plastic and the environmental solutions we can all contribute to lessen the amount of plastic waste ending up in our oceans. Because there's no two ways about it, plastic is polluting the ocean.

World Oceans Day on 8 June aimed to raise awareness of the impact that plastic pollution is having on our environment. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation​ the amount of plastic waste will be greater than the number of fish in our oceans by 2050. Something has got to give.

Hot topics in the world of plastic waste currently include; the danger plastic microbeads pose, innovative sustainability practices for plastic reuse and novel ways to replace plastic with alternatives.

Microbeads have taken prominence in the news over the last few weeks as the EU (and the UK government) make decisions on the best course of their management. Usually found in products like face wash and toothpaste they are becoming an increasing concern. Whilst some detractors will argue that they only contribute as low as 0.01% of the micro plastic waste which ends up in the ocean, the tiny beads often bypass water filtration systems and easily end up in our oceans across the world. They are a danger to marine life as they can ingest the tiny beads and become poisoned by the chemicals contained in them. The toxics contained in plastics can then make their way up the food chain. The US will ban microbeads in products from 2017 and the UK government is taking a renewed interest after 300,000 people signed a petition to ban them. Many companies have already phased out the production of products containing microbeads, like Johnson and Johnson, and others are following their lead.

We are also seeing an increase in plastics being repurposed. G-star RAW have come up with a collaborative project with Pharrell Williams called RAW for the Oceans​, which uses plastic from the ocean and turns it into denim. Levi's have developed a new range of jeans and jackets containing recycled plastic and another fashion retailer O'Neill has started bringing recycled beach plastic into their high performance surf wear. Initiatives like these all contribute to a circular economy.

Celebrities are also helping to promote the cause. Only last month Emma Watson wore a Calvin Klein dress made from recycled plastic bottles to the MET Gala, underlining the advances that have been made in the eco fashion industry in recent years. However, whilst we are highlighting some high-profile cases here, sustainable fashion can also be found on the high street.  Many companies have been recycling plastic to make clothes for a number of years now and you may not have even realised it, JoJo Maman Bebe's popular polar fleece range is made from recycled plastics.

Unfortunately, synthetic clothes can shed plastic fibres during washing which can also bypass water filtrations systems and end up in our oceans. Therefore, steps also need to be taken to ensure that plastic fibres along with plastic waste do not end up in the ocean in the first place, along with making sure they also don't become landfilled at the end of their life.

Some examples of replacing plastics for alternative packaging can be found in innovative products such as the 100 percent biodegradable, compostable and edible six pack beer can rings which have been invented by Florida's Saltwater Brewery​. This new product aims to safeguard marine life from the regular plastic rings, breaking down in water to prevent them from being eaten or acting as traps. This clearly proves that whilst plastics have dominated the packaging world, many people really are trying to find more sustainable alternatives.

Sustainability initiatives and extended producer responsibility are not a new concept. Packaging waste regulations have existed in the EU since the mid-90s and obligated producers must pay costs and submit data for packaging placed on the market. But now many retailers are taking their sustainability agendas to the next level which may also be underpinned by the EUs circular economy package.

New innovative technologies and sustainability practices aim to reduce the amount of plastics ending up in our environment, but we as consumers also need to take responsibility for plastic waste through our purchasing choices and power to re-use and recycle items rather than throw them away.

Happy World Oceans Day! We still have a long way to go, how can you make a difference?