Throwaway culture has caused packaging waste worldwide:
Updated: Aug 20, 2018
At current estimates between 4.8 million and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enter the ocean every year. That’s almost a rubbish truck every minute, and a recent report by the UK Government about the future of the ocean estimated that the amount of plastic waste entering our seas could treble in the next ten years.
Much of it is single-use food wrapping – this has created a rubbish problem that pollutes every corner of the world. Manufacturers created this mess, so now it’s up to us and our governments to dig ourselves out.
Where is it all coming from?
Research shows that approximately 80 per cent of all plastic in the ocean originates on land rather than from ships at sea and it can end up in the ocean in many ways.
– Plastic that isn’t disposed of correctly leads to litter blowing into waterways and being carried out into the ocean.
– Plastic food packaging that doesn’t get recycled can end up going to landfill sites on the coast that might leak into the sea, as well as many other routes to the open ocean where currents will take it to the four corners of the globe.
– Many of the products we use daily are flushed down toilets, including wet wipes, cotton buds, sanitary products and microfibres, which can be released through washing our clothes, account for roughly a third of plastic arriving in the ocean.
The enormous quantity of plastic being produced means that even vastly improved waste and recycling infrastructure would not capture all plastic. Even a proportionally small amount of leakage (plastic that is meant to be disposed of properly but ‘leaks’ from the system) can have major impacts. In fact, scientists estimate that currently nearly third of all plastic waste manages to evade the waste and recycling sector.
The UK alone produces more than 170m tonnes of waste every year, much of it food packaging. While it has revolutionised the way we store and consume food, there is now so much of it that landfills can’t cope with. Some of it is poisonous, and some of it never degrades. It can take upto 450 years for some types of plastic bottles to break down; one type, PET, while recyclable, doesn’t biodegrade at all. And yet only a third of plastic packaging is recycled. Indeed, we never actually throw anything “away” – it’s just transferred to somewhere else.
Recycling is just a drop in the ocean – most of the environmental cost of our throwaway wrapping is with the manufacturer. We were closer to an answer 30 years ago when we had milkmen and bottle deposits, now we live in a crazy age where a packet of crisps can have seven layers of wrapping!
This is ironic because it isn’t beyond humanity to solve the problem – look at how the world took action on CFCs: there are signs that the hole in the ozone layer is now closing so biodegradable food packaging should be easy.
Fortunately there are signs that the situation is improving, recycling is now commonplace, and new initiatives like green bins, the plastic bag charge, and in France they lead by banning plastic cutlery, cups and plates. Awareness campaigns by youth groups like Central Youth Theatre, Wolverhampton, http://www.centralyouththeatre.org are highlighting the problems with today’s consumer habits by performing plays such as “A Matter of Stuff’. Lucinda Coxon, screen writer of the Danish Girl, wrote the play which focuses on our material economy, planned obsolescence and our reliance on gathering ‘stuff’ which polutes the world.
An innovative manufacturer called Delipac promoted and distributed through the Media Group UK, www.media-group.co.uk/delipac, have developed a food packaging product which is completely sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable. The material is a fully sustainable packaging board designed for food and drink that provides multi-barriers against moisture, grease, liquid, without using laminated plastics or polymers. The material is new to market so Delipac and Media Group are introducing it into the supply change by promoting it to food maufacturers and distributors.
So it is up to us to look after our planet as is it is our only life support system, and if we don’t look after it the consequences will be severe.
Some useful website addresses of companies which can help point us in the right direction:
World Wild Life (WWF)
They take on the big issues facing our planet in order to protect nature.
The WWF are facing up to challenges such as the urgent threat of climate change. They’re also promoting sustainable use of resources, helping to change the way we live and working with business and government to protect our planet for generations to come.
They defend the natural world and promote peace by investigating, exposing and confronting environmental abuse, and championing responsible solutions for our fragile environment.
Organic, whole-ingredient food: Riverford, Devon
Organic meat and veg box scheme operates on a root-to-fruit, nose-to-tail philosophy: Head to their fields on a ‘glean’, or eat graded-out produce in their restaurants … riverford.co.uk
Ideas for waste reduction at Waste Less, Save More – Derbyshire
Check out their tips, gadgets and apps for inspiration. wastelesssavemore.sainsburys.co.uk
Meals from food waste at Pay As You Feel – West Yorkshire
Leeds’s Armley Junk-tion cafe – like all Real Junk Food Project endeavours across the country – diverts ingredients destined for waste, and you pay what you can for the dishes they become. There is now a grocery store operating on the same principle. therealjunkfoodproject.org
Zero Waste cuisine at Silo, East Sussex
Brighton’s Doug McMaster won Best Ethical Restaurant at last year’s Observer Food Monthly awards for his game-changing zero-waste ethos. silobrighton.com
Rescue unpicked veg with the Gleaning Network – Kent
Vegetable picking such as cauliflowers that maybe. Find your inner farmer, and a field in need of harvesters near you. feedbackglobal.org
Media Group - UK Strategic Partner of Delipac UK & Europe
A NEW sustainable fully recyclable barrier packaging for food and drink that will also degrade entirely back to natural fibres if consigned to landfill in 3 months.
media-group.co.uk/delipac Tel: 0121 728 5333