With bush fires raging and floods rising, it’s easy to feel defeated about the state of our world. There’s still so much to do, but when it comes to plastic pollution, we are optimistic about the coming year.
We’ve seen so many encouraging shifts in the past year, providing hints of what may be to come in 2020. Industries are pulling together, pioneers are pushing the boundaries and finding new solutions. Politicians are slowly waking up. Here are our predictions for the year ahead – we hope our crystal ball is right…
Trend #1 – Refill Revolution
Here at RAW, we’re all about saying no single-use – and that means reusing and refilling whenever possible. We believe in this because it works – every reusable RAW Bottle typically helps to rid the world of 167 plastic bottles every year. And, when only 9% of all plastics ever produced have been recycled, a reuse system clearly presents an effective opportunity to dematerialise and significantly reduce levels of plastic, that is better than chucking our plastic in the recycling bin.
The message is finally filtering through to retailers – consumers want them to do more. And they’re starting to – Waitrose, Morrisons and Marks and Spencer have all trialled refill stations and Sainsbury’s is planning refillable lines this year.
But these are small steps. We want 2020 to be the year that our shopping habits change dramatically. Trials and pilots are all very well, but they don’t create large-scale behaviour change. It’s time for reuse and refill to become the norm – could this be the year?
Trend #2 – Plastic producers under pressure
Last year, Coca-Cola admitted the true extent of its plastic production, revealing that it produces 3m tonnes of plastic packaging a year. To put that into context, it equates to a staggering 200,000 bottles a minute.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation compiled a groundbreaking report on some of the world’s biggest plastic polluters in a drive for greater transparency and 150 companies also signed up to the foundation’s global commitment to reduce plastic waste. This year, we hope to start seeing some action as a result of these pledges.
At RAW, we’ve been doing our own research and campaigning to put more pressure on global plastic polluters. Our extensive research into the plastic footprint of South America identifies the worst culprits as Coca Cola, PepsiCo, MacDonalds, Nestle and Kraft Heinz.
We have launched an online petition to #TaxPlasticPolluters and hold these companies to account. If you haven’t signed it yet, take a minute to add your support now. We’ll also be publishing the results of our research this year.
Trend #3 – Let’s legislate
Climate change and pointless plastic pollution come hand in hand. Without significant intervention, rising plastic production will skyrocket to at least 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. That’s about the same as the entire current emissions of the transportation industry – planes, trains, cars and buses combined. In turn, plastic pollution will overwhelm our planet and communities.
As the effects of climate change become ever-more prevalent, the pressure is also on politicians to deliver change. Campaign group Extinction Rebellion deserves our respect for pushing this up the political agenda in 2019, and we’re sure they will continue this vital work in the coming year.
Changes are already starting to trickle through, with a mention of banning the export of polluting plastic waste outside of OECD countries in the post-election Queen’s Speech.
In April this year, England will finally see the back of many pointless plastic items – such as straws, stirrers and cotton buds – as last year’s legislation change comes into effect. Not a moment too soon.
Councils are also joining in – Wales produced a Circular Economy Strategy at the end of last year. This will start with a consultation on how to move towards zero waste by 2050 by encouraging the reuse, repair and remanufacture products and materials.
Trend #4 – Tourism cleaning up its act
The tourism industry has long been one of the worst culprits when it comes to plastic pollution, so it’s encouraging to see so many new initiatives popping up.
From City to Sea’s #PlasticFreeTravel Campaign to new moves from airports such as San Francisco and Dubai, there’s plenty of evidence that single-use plastic is not necessary. In August, San Francisco Airport announced a ban on the sales of plastic water bottles and has since done the same with coffee cups.
Over in Dubai Airport, the new year saw the launch of a commitment to begin phasing out all single-use plastic items. The airport generates 5,500 tonnes of single-use plastics and is tackling the problem by encouraging outlets to stop using disposable plastics. This could be a useful pilot to help create a new model for other airports to follow.
Tourist destinations are starting to do their bit, too. Mexico has been in the headlines for its dedication to reducing pointless plastic, with a host of hotels in Cabo San Lucas, Playa del Carmen, and Mexico City introducing a range of initiatives. These include banning plastic straws and giving guests reusable bottles instead of single-use plastic.
In Tunisia, tourists will be banned from using disposable plastic cups and cutlery in hotels by the end of March, and plastic straws have already been phased out. The country has also introduced a sustainable tourism charter, with tour operators supporting recycling at hotels.
It’s already clear that this will be a big trend this year. Just last week, Bangladesh’s High Court ordered the government to ban single-use plastics in coastal areas and in hotels and restaurants. They have given them one year in a bid to combat pollution.
At RAW, we’ve been doing our bit too, with the launch of RAW Foundation Turkey. The Foundation has joined forces with Kaş Tourism Association to launch a Plastic-Free Campaign and Plastic-Free Action Pack to inspire change towards a zero-waste future in Turkey. Watch this space for a new blog coming very soon telling you more about our work in Turkey.
Trend #5 – Plastic-free festivals and events
With clients such as Glastonbury, Shambala, Boomtown and Greenbelt, our work often involves festivals and events, and we’ve seen some really exciting shifts taking place recently.
Many of our clients are the gamechangers who have been working hard to lead the way on this issue for years. As the official reusable bottle supplier for Glastonbury in 2019, it was wonderful to see this huge festival succeed at banning the sale of single-use plastic bottles.
The launch of the Festival Vision: 2025 initiative proves that the industry is really coming together too, and we’re keen to see how this unfolds in 2020. The project aims to achieve a 50% reduction in the annual carbon impact arising from festival-related activities by 2025. It will provide detailed sustainability knowledge on governance, waste, food, transport / travel and power, giving advice and best practice examples to festival organisers.
What are your predictions for plastics this year? We’d love to hear your thoughts about what 2020 has in store – tweet us @RAWBottles.