Campaigns against plastic pollution: ‘false’ solutions; free; plastic-free Brahmaputra; Lego from recycled bottles; zero waste concept

In this weekly c0lumn, WhatPackaging? highlights the stories of stakeholders working to fight plastic pollution

26 Jun 2021 | By PrintWeek Team

Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Unilever developing ‘false’ solutions to plastic pollution: Report

The non-profit Break Free From Plastic movement tracked and analysed projects of seven leading companies and eight alliances which claimed to have effective solutions in place to tackle the plastic crisis. However, its report highlighted that these major FMCG companies have projects that do little to nothing as part of their response.

Titled ‘Missing the Mark: Unveiling Corporate False Solutions to the Plastic Pollution Crisis’, the report looks at 265 corporate projects to understand whether companies are giving the much-needed attention to solutions like the reuse system, compared to false solutions.

It looked closely at the initiatives of Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Mars, Mondelez International, Nestlé, Unilever and the Coca-Cola Company. This list is similar to the names in the top polluters of the world global audit conducted by the Break Free From Plastic movement.

Experts stated that out of the 265 projects running from 2018 to April 2021, only 39 were invested in reuse. A shocking 226 of these projects were labelled as false solutions to the plastic pollution crisis.

Ranked from absolute worst to least worst, Procter & Gamble tops the list with Unilever at the bottom, but still a top offender.

Corporate campaigns coordinator of Break Free From Plastic, Emma Priestland, said despite claims that the world’s top polluting companies are combating plastic pollution, the evidence to understand if they are serious is in the numbers. “These companies are pursuing false solutions that range from potentially damaging at worst, and simple wishful thinking, at best,” she said in a statement. “What the findings reveal is that only 15% of the projects are proven solutions like reuse, refill, and alternative delivery systems. Instead, these companies are investing in projects that do little to eliminate single-use plastics.”

From the FMCG companies, 214 direct projects were analysed with a total of 38 reuse pilots and projects, along with 176 false solution projects.

Global project leader of Greenpeace US, Graham Forbes said the report is just another example of how leading brands keep failing to prioritize reuse and make genuine strides to reduce throwaway packaging. “It is clear that reuse-based alternatives are essential for these companies to remain viable in a climate-safe future and end their contributions to the plastic pollution crisis. Instead of working with the fossil fuel industry to promote false solutions, these companies must end their reliance on single-use plastics and scale-up systems of reuse globally.”

With plastic production predicted to quadruple by 2050, much of this is being fuelled by FMCG companies and their single-use packaging. Since the 1950s, only 9% of plastic produced has been actually recycled and in single-use plastic, those that can be recycled, which are very few, have a huge economical cost.


Assam youth campaigns for plastic-free Brahmaputra

Aiming to raise awareness about the dangers posed by plastic waste to the environment, a youth from Assam's Dibrugarh is all set for a voyage on the Brahmaputra river on a specially crafted boat made from discarded plastic water bottles.

Dhiraj Bikash Gogoi began his journey from Bogibeel to Majuli, with the theme of ‘Plastic Free Brahmaputra’, to cover a distance of 200-km.

“I don’t know how successful this journey will be, but I am trying to create awareness among people to make the Brahmaputra river completely plastic-free. Because the river is our lifeline,” Gogoi said.

The boat is made of 1,600 plastic water bottles which Gogoi collected from the banks of the Brahmaputra river discarded by picknickers and tourists.

It took Gogoi a few days to construct the boat, which is 11-ft long and 4-ft wide. It weighs 45-kg and can carry six people easily.

According to the United Nations, the Meghna-Brahmaputra-Ganges carry about 72,845 tons of plastic debris to the oceans annually.

(Courtesy: The Indian Express)


Lego plans to sell bricks from recycled bottles

Toy giant Lego is aiming to put bricks made from recycled drinks bottles on shelves within two years. Lego makes about 3,500 different bricks and shapes, but faces the challenge of coming up with a sustainable product that can last years — decades, even.

The goal is to find a product good enough that people don't notice the difference, said Lego's Tim Brooks. He did not specify how many of its bricks will contain recycled material, adding: “It's too soon to say."

But he added that Lego wants to start using the bottle-made ones “as soon as possible".

Brooks, Lego's vice-president of sustainability, said the two types of blocks should fit together and be interchangeable like any Lego product.

The next stage will be to add colours to the prototype bricks, and test them with children and adult fans.

Lego said it would initially get soft drinks bottles from the US to make its new plastic toy parts. It said plastic recovered from the oceans would not be suitable as it is typically too degraded.

(Courtesy: BBC News)

How can cities adopt zero waste concepts?

In an article published in the 22 June issue of The Indian Express, Swati Singh Sambyal says that for waste management, our cities need to have effective systems in place that are resource-efficient, circular, and inclusive. By shifting to zero waste strategies, municipalities can immediately begin reducing the costs of their waste management and device steps that focus on rethinking and reinventing waste management.

But how can cities adopt zero waste concepts? To start with, make segregation mandatory not optional. As per the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016, every generator needs to segregate waste into wet (biodegradable), dry (non-biodegradable) and domestic hazardous waste.

To mainstream segregation and focus on waste reduction at source, price incentives can be explored as a key driver of behaviour. For instance, in countries such as Sweden, South Korea, excessive generation of waste is disincentivised as citizens pay more user-fee over those who generate less. Also, unique initiatives like the one being practiced in Mangaluru could be explored, wherein there is a 50 per cent concession on property tax for households that segregate and compost their waste, also mixed waste is not collected. These efforts must be complemented with continuous advocacy and awareness such as by focusing on ward-level committees that monitor and supervise segregation at source. Creating a segregation incentive system will ensure maximum recovery of wet and dry waste and ensure that minimum goes to the landfills.

Secondly, setting up effective collection and transportation (C&T) systems to support segregation, end to end, right from collection, processing to disposal. This will help in reducing contamination of resources (especially dry waste) and will further create systems so that resources could be reutilised and recycled. Also, increasing collection efficiency in cities by route optimisation will also help in saving resources such as fuel. This has been explored in cities such as Surat (Gujarat), Indore, (Madhya Pradesh), and Nagpur (Maharashtra). Further, a robust Management Information System (MIS) to enhance accountability and transparency and to get data on percentage of waste segregated, collected and processed, for instance in the case of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh.

Third, build systems for maximum resource recovery in cities. Change the infrastructure in line with the new paradigm to support maximum resource recovery with a phase-out plan from being heavily dependent on disposal infrastructures such as landfills or incinerators. Create decentralised infrastructure, wherever applicable to reduce costs on C&T. In the long term, over 50 per cent savings in C&T have been observed in cities that have moved to decentralised systems for instance (eg: Alappuzha, Kerala, Ambikapur, Chattisgarh). Further, cities can encourage residents, bulk generators to treat wet waste at the source and may consider creating systems for subsidies and incentives for adoption of decentralised technologies such as biomethanisation, composting etc.

(Courtesy: The Indian Express)