You cannot swim in a plastic ocean

Jason Nuckolls

Jason Nuckolls

Mar 16, 2021 – Industry Intelligence Inc.

LOS ANGELES , March 2, 2021 () –

We humans produce 2 billion tonnes of waste annually — a figure that the World Bank projects to increase by 70% by 2050. And according to forest-focused conservation group Canopy Planet, single-use plastics are a key contributor to this wasteful rise. 

On February 16, Canopy Planet released an outline on how best to curb the influx of waste into the planet's landfills, a problem they say disproportionately harms "indigenous communities, people of color and vulnerable populations whose territories and homes are often situated close to production regions and plants, or waste sites of extractive industries." Citing a UN statistic indicating that less than 10% of all plastic ever produced has been recycled, the group's plan calls for redirection of public and private funds to support the start-up and scale-up of systems that support reusable products and circularity, and for ensuring that producers take responsibility for the full lifecycle costs and impacts of their products and packaging. 

Some companies are innovating with products that dovetail nicely with Canopy Planet's point of view. 

NEXE Innovations recently announced that the company's Nespresso-Compatible Pods achieved 100% disintegration within 10 weeks, which is an improvement over the testing standard of 90% disintegration in less than 12 weeks. The trials also found that NEXE Nespresso Compatible Pods had no negative effects on the quality of the resulting compost. Zachary Hudson, Chief Scientific Officer at NEXE, says, "Years of R&D have led to a sustainable product that does not compromise the taste profile the consumer demands, and that can be composted completely after use.” 

Not to be outdone in the leave-no-waste-behind department, VF Corporation, one of the world’s largest apparel, footwear and accessories companies, on Feb. 10 announced its goal to eliminate all single-use plastic packaging, including polybags, by 2025. VF isn't stopping there: All remaining non-plastic packaging used by the company and its brands will be reduced, originate from sustainable sources, or be designed for reuse or recyclability. Jeannie Renné-Malone, VP of Global Sustainability for VF, says, “Our new global packaging goals are an example of how we can leverage our scale for significant impact. In just one year, we could potentially eliminate as many as 100 million polybags from our packaging waste.”

Even ubiquitous teeth-cleaning brand Colgate is working its innovative muscle by launching Colgate Keep, a reinvented manual toothbrush with a reusable handle that contains 80% less plastic. The Keep is a step toward the company's 2025 sustainability goals, which include a pledge to reduce plastic waste from toothbrushes by 50%. 

Such plastic-focused innovations can't come quickly enough. Conservation group OceansAsia estimates that plastic pollution costs the global economy about US$13 billion per year primarily via its impact on fisheries and tourism. The group quotes environmentalists who say plastic pollution kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, over a million seabirds, and even greater numbers of fish, invertebrates and other animals every year. 

Canopy Planet reinforces the importance of maintaining the world's oceans, saying that "oceans store vast amounts of carbon dioxide and act as natural solutions to climate change, and they … provide billions of people with food and livelihoods." Despite this, figures like those from OceansAsia show real peril for the world's oceans due to an ever-growing amount of plastic pollution. Canopy Planet warns, "From cradle to grave, single use products leave behind a legacy of negative environmental impacts that humanity and the earth’s resources can simply not afford."

As recent innovations show, though, some companies are heeding the call to innovate a path away from plastic waste. 

Jason Nuckolls is the Recycling & Waste Management editor for Industry Intelligence, which can help YOU better address your own industry challenges. To arm yourself with the latest market intelligence, contact ClientCare@IndustryIntel.com. Ask us about our interactive intelligence map and search bot on Microsoft Teams.

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(Image: MichaelisScientists via Wikimedia Commons)   

* All content is copyrighted by Industry Intelligence, or the original respective author or source. You may not recirculate, redistrubte or publish the analysis and presentation included in the service without Industry Intelligence's prior written consent. Please review our terms of use.

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