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Nov 22, 2017

Anything but plastic

by Mary Anne FitzGerald - Client Services Director

Anything but plastic

Blue Planet is back on the BBC and a recent episode featured the all too modern day tale of an albatross feeding plastic to its young chick rather than the more usual diet of fish, sand eels or squid.

Echoing the programme’s sentiments but somewhat overshadowed by the scrapping of Stamp Duty for first time buyers, last week’s budget mooted a future ‘fish and chip’ tax. In 2018 the government will launch a call for evidence on how taxes or other charges on single use plastics could reduce the impact of discarded waste on marine and bird life.

Spooky timing? No, actually this is part of the Government’s 25 year environmental strategy and follows on from the plastic carrier bag levy introduced two years ago which has resulted in a 80% reduction in plastic bag use. Its remit doesn’t include plastic bottles but will take into account a concurrent consultation by the Department of the Environment on a deposit return scheme for drinks containers.

The scary stats. According to the World Economic Forum, at least eight million tonnes of plastic ends up in the ocean every year. Its 2016 report warned that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050 unless major action is taken.

The importance of recycling cannot be overstated and P&G has announced the launch of its new Fairy Ocean bottle – the first of its kind to be made with 100% recycled plastic. 90% is post-consumer recycled plastic with the remaining 10% is plastic collected from oceans and beaches around the world. The aim is not only to raise awareness of the issue but to actively encourage consumers to take part in beach clean-ups and recycle household waste.

In the world of drinks, CanO Water is one of the brands that thinks it is time to ring pull the changes on the omnipresent plastic drinks bottle. The company, which has the strapline ‘Water with a purpose’, was founded in 2016 by three friends, all under the age of 25, who wanted to make a difference. Their cans are sleek-looking, filled with water from a spring in Austria and have a celebrity following but that’s not the point. The real story is in the can.

Only 5% of plastic products are recycled, whereas 70% of all aluminium that has been manufactured over the past 140 years is still in use, some of it having been recycled many times over. It has a value per tonne that is at least five times that of plastic, and it is lightweight, stackable and strong.

So tick one for the can.

Tick two, and this is the big one with a gold star: these cans are re-sealable.  They have a patented lid made by a company in Germany so you can sip and reseal – and refill with tap water, if you want to. CanO Water currently holds the UK licence for water products.

Selfridges, who with serendipitous timing wanted to replace its single use plastic bottles, was the first major retailer to stock CanO Water in January 2016. Ocado, Wholefoods and a number of independents have now joined them. The price tag of 99p for a 330 ml can might be considered a bit steep but not perhaps in the grand scheme of things. As CanO Water co-founder Josh White puts it “We can’t go anywhere without having to be forced to buy plastic bottles. Consumers should have a choice”.

An independent brewery in Florida is also doing its bit to cut down the amount of plastic in the sea. Saltwater Brewery has developed the first 100% edible, compostable and biodegradable six-pack holder. It is made up of beer by products, like barley and wheat remnants, which are leftover from the brewing process. So if the rings end up in the ocean, they will safely disintegrate.

The design is as strong as plastic packaging but it’s more expensive to produce the company says. However, it hopes customers will be willing to pay a bit more in order to help the environment. Saltwater is starting small. If the beer industry embraces the concept, the price of creating this unconventional fish food would be competitive with traditional plastic rings.  “We hope to influence the big guys and hopefully inspire them to get on board,” says Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove.

Here’s hoping they do. Sir David Attenborough and the albatross would be so pleased.

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