The eco agenda has had some big wins of late - like single use plastic bag bans and food waste laws changing. Vegans are now about as main stream as you can get - and Vegans know they are making a difference when your arch enemies start bleating about you using their product names after years of pretending you don't even exist. The Unilevers of the world are stalking the eco behaviour of consumers, and especially millennials and making changes. The biggest companies in the world are re-engineering manufacturing to be more sustainable, buying up smaller sustainable businesses and positioning their own products, packaging and preferences as green. Big business can afford to buy their way green anyway. For many of them it's simply another version of this season's marketing strategy, but with a little more governance. The thing is that the game is up, with the convergence of online access to pretty much anything combining with increasing sustainability awareness. Buying habits and choices are changing.
THE INCREASING NUMBER OF ECO MICRO AND SMALL BUSINESS START UPS ARE ACTING AS A KIND OF OPEN SOURCE LABORATORY FROG POND WHILE DRIVING CHANGE. THEY ARE THE ONES RE-IMAGINING MANUFACTURING & SUPPLY CHAIN INPUTS OF PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING. SALVAGING, RECYCLING, RETHINKING THE WAY WE EAT, SLEEP AND PLAY.
Most are doing it all with no real funding and very little beyond a commitment to a more sustainable alternative. That simple objective and often a lack of specific experience makes these new age inventors unconstrained by the mindsets of how things 'are meant to be done'. People like Graham Ross from Kusaga or Stephanie Devine of The Very Good Bra, are great examples of how fashion items and essentials can be re-engineered to be completely sustainable by simply looking at how fabrics are assembled in a different way. ACCESS TO EASY COMMUNICATION, GLOBAL SUPPLY CHAINS AND CHEAP MANUFACTURING HAS REALLY SHIFTED THE OPPORTUNITY FOR PRETTY MUCH ANYONE, EVEN WITH A SMALL BUDGET, TO RE-ENGINEER PRETTY MUCH ANYTHING. BUT THE TRUTH IS THAT FOR INNOCENT CONSUMERS & SMALL BUSINESS ALIKE, IT'S THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE - AND WE ARE SOMETIMES CREATING NEW PROBLEMS FASTER THAN WE ARE SOLVING OLD ONES.
In some cases the race to create 'better products' is either not thought through or infrastructure isn't keeping up with the opportunity offered by new products. And this is no more true than in the plastics industry, but it's not alone. Business and consumers need to keep their wits about them and eyes wide open more than ever. Eco claims are all too often a good idea with debatable execution.
A great example of good intention, debatable execution is Huskee Cup, who have created both a beautifully designed coffee cup with a fit all lid and a coffee swap scheme that means it doesn't matter if you forget your reusable cup, as long as you go to a HuskeeCup coffee shop. But for some reason known only to HuskeeCup, they decided to make their cups out of coffee husks (a readily compostable product) and new plastic (unsustainable oil based plastic, but recyclable) and create a non-recyclable product. One can only hope that they work out how to help the roasters to compost their own husks locally, feed their soil and claw back some existing plastic by using recycled plastics next shipment - thereby creating a systemically sustainably solution. (In plain English, a sustainable product to match their clever swap system.)
One can only imagine that the odd situation we find ourselves in where someone can make a product that effectively has the power to kill, sicken and maim, but isn't required to be responsible for that product's actions? Has the time arrived for the manufacturer of a product to be wholly responsible for its acceptable disposal? If manufacturers had always been responsible for difficult product packaging disposal, how do you suppose our oceans might look today? Sodastream have been campaigning for years with no success, for bottlers to take responsibility for their own plastic. Awareness, dead whales and increasing media interest is turning the tide, albeit slowly.
The plant based plastic area is a really nasty problem and since I am addicted to metaphors, I want to be clear that this problem is a herd of elephants in the room. The issue is so confusing that we are going to start a series explaining them all, one by one.In summary however, the whole Bio-this / Bio-that, Plant Based Plastics, compostable, degradable blah blah is not only confusing, it's mostly headed for landfill.In the coming weeks, using the considerable resources available, we are going to work through brands, plastics and sales pitches one by one and see if we can't make sense of it all.
Who remembers the Ipswich Mayor who diverted his city's recycle bins to landfill without telling anyone? He's gone now from office and is in court facing various charges of fraud and corruption. (Not over the recycle program.) The problem he had with his city's recycle bins was that they were filthy. The council had simply not invested in education of it's own citizens.
Who even knew the majority of our recyclables went to China until they refused to take anymore? It turns out that we outsourced our recycling waste and with it went all the downstream advantages and learnings. Man, that is one smart China. But China stopped taking the world's recycling and we literally now have to grow an industry ourselves. Good job. With so much going on across all kinds of industries and very little governance, errors of judgement, components and straight out inability of our utilities infrastructure to deal with new inventions are inevitable. (Both in Australia and the country ingredients might be sourced from.)Even with high regulation, it's easy to make mistakes. Innovation will continue to outpace both infrastructure and the laws that govern it - until someone works out how to make infrastructure more agile and responsive.
Great story and so true - we need clear up the widespread confusion around different types of plastic such as degradable, biodegradable and compostable. We're keen to help with your editorial series and thanks for publishing our article explaining compostable plastic. https://ekko.world/what-is-compostable-plastic/212331
Tuesday, 4 December 2018