THE BIG DISPUTE: RECYCLE OR REDUCE PLASTIC?

Amsterdam, 22 June 2018 – Recently, multinationals have set goals to deal with plastic pollution that they themselves have created with their single-use packaging. Their goals have a striking similarity. Whether it is McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, Unilever or Coca-Cola, they all pledge that in 2025 or 2030, 100% of their packaging will be made of renewable, compostable or recycled materials.

What they do not say is that the endless uses of plastic packaging will simply continue. Similarly, there is no assurance whatsoever that no plastic packaging will leak into the environment.

Just take Starbucks for example. As early as 2008, Starbucks promised that 100 percent of its coffee cups would be either reused or recyclable by 2015. Ten years later, most of their four billion cups still end up on landfills and elsewhere every year – the plastic coating in the cups means that they can hardly be recycled and there is no system to collect the used cups. It makes no difference to the plastic soup whether the cups are made of recycled materials or not.

The only real solution to tackle plastic pollution is to dramatically reduce or ban single-use packaging.

The solution for Starbucks is simple. Kiss the disposable cup goodbye and serve coffee either in personal cups that customers bring or put a deposit on the cups so that they will be returned and reused.

While some countries are announcing bans on single-use packaging – see the recent initiatives by the European Union and India – other governments are falling for the wiles of industry. Environment ministers in Australia, for example, recently declared that all Australian packaging must be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. Is it any wonder that these targets will be carried out by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation, whose members include 950 packaging companies?