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Bol.com introduces plastic packaging and claims environmental benefit

Amsterdam, 29 April 2019  – In a press release on their website, Bol.com announced changes in its packaging policies. The large, Dutch, online retailer’s most important change is the decision to decrease the use of their signature blue and white cardboard boxes. Bol.com claims that avoiding double packaging (products that were already packed and then double-packed in Bol.com blue & white boxes) will save 3.5 million boxes this year alone. About 20% of the CO2 emission of this company is produced by the packing materials and their aim is to be a zero-emission online store in 2025. This leaves one question: what are they doing with plastic?    

Bol.com also introduces a plastic shipping bag, made of recycled materials to replace some of the cardboard boxes in future. This will no doubt lead to increased use of plastic. At the beginning of the year, Bol.com did not sign the Plastic Pact in which companies and organisations committed to decreasing their plastic use with 20% in 2025. Is this commitment the reason why Bol.com did not sign the pact? The online retailer wants to decrease its ecological footprint and equates that to CO2 reduction. However, it ignores the impact of single-use packages on the environment.  

Implementing a reusable system would show real ambition 

Less packaging is better. Less packaging, plastic, cardboard and stuffing materials mean less waste, which is clearly better for the environment. Replacing cardboard with plastic can reduce CO2 emissions but does not take other aspects of plastic use, such as the disposal of plastic, into account. Plastic Soup Foundation does not agree with replacing cardboard by plastic. Instead of introducing plastic shipping bags, Bol.com should keep using the cardboard boxes. However, if the choice for plastic is already made then, the containers should be part of a reusable system, so containers can be returned to the company to be re-used. This would comply with the new SUP directive of the European Commission, which states that single-use plastic (SUP) should be reduced; producers should take responsibility for their plastic packaging, even after use. And an infrastructure should be in place to stimulate reusing plastic packing materials. Bol.com is making changes but as far as plastic is concerned, in the wrong direction. 

Photo: www.businessinsider.nl 

Unprecedented heavy lobby against European Commission proposals

Amsterdam, 15 September 2018 – With a knife in the back, the European plastic and packaging industry is showing its true colours. The European Commission proposed a new Directive last May which revolves around dealing with single-use plastic by banning certain plastic products like drinking straws and disposable cutlery, and making producers responsible for the waste phase of their products.

Last month, the plastic and packaging industry responded to the proposal with a statement signed by 68 companies in the industry. The Afvalfonds signed for the Netherlands and Fost Plus signed for Belgium.

The plastic and packaging industry’s statement in particular objects to article 8 which says that producers should be made responsible for clearing up single-use plastic. It argues that industry is not responsible, but the polluting citizens themselves. There is limited awareness and waste collection is poorly organised. The lobby’s object is clear: to continue to produce unlimited amounts of plastic and to keep the production costs to a minimum.

An alliance of environmental organisations, including the Plastic Soup Foundation, has expressed its concern about the plastic and packaging industry’s position and has itself produced a statement which argues the case for each point raised by the industry. The plastic and packaging industry should not attack the proposed Directive but should embrace it, recognise its own responsibility and not continue shoving the responsibility on consumers.

FRANCOBLOGGO V: It’s a wrap!

Having had some space to reflect on our month of plastic free living, it’s time to assess how we, the common every-person, can adapt to lessen our everyday plastic use.

The first observation is that, in spite of there still being a long way to go, there are lots of companies beginning to make a change in their policies. Not just that, but reflecting it in their PR and advertising. My local chain supermarket is soon to be adopting paper based shopping bags. A bar near me is going to sell ring-pull cans of water, rather than bottles, that can be recycled after use. Both these places have big colourful adverts hanging up in their stores boasting about this positive change.

If you think about it – they are still companies who are in need of profit and revenue. They still have to cowtow to their superiors. Us the consumer. They wouldn’t dare alienate their customers by pushing an unwanted agenda. They know that this will get them noticed, get them press, get more people in the door, and land them more money. Cynical thought, I know. But the big positive here is that they are reacting to us the consumer. We are beginning to demand more ethical and sustainable practices in our everyday lives. It’s not that they have just started listening, it is that we have started shouting louder. And that’s great!

Living a plastic free life is challenging to say the least. Our lifestyles have become accelerated, but delicate like a tea trolley with a ferarri engine. We can move fast, but it won’t take much for everything to crash. So we feed this lifestyle with quick things. Quick food. Quick entertainment. Quick conversations. Plastic is perfect for this existence. So we need to address societal pressures and expectations as much as we do the products we use.

We also need to get our facts straight and pay more attention to news that isn’t sexy, and fashionable. Unsexy news is more likely to keep us alive longer. A recent article from Bloomberg stated that the big move to reduce plastic straws in clubs is an ineffective method of reducing ocean pollution, albeit a very easy and virtuous thing for us to get behind. Plastic straws make up 0.03 % of the 8 million metric tons. The biggest plastic pollutant in the water? Discarded fishing nets. So although we can make a small personal difference by changing our habits. The biggest change will come from us as consumers. 

If we can change our demand for things, we will change the supply. It’ll take a while. But it’s worth doing. Let the companies boast about how good they are! And let us show them what we want by buying those things!

Thanks for reading our rants. See you out there in the green! xx

 

 

Check out Francobloggo’s I to IV here.

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The Government should ban drink pouches

Amsterdam, 30 July 2018 – An important contributor to litter are drink pouches such as those from Capri-Sun, which is part of Coca-Cola. Just a couple of sips through a plastic straw and they are empty. These drink pouches are made of plastic with a thin layer of aluminium. Anyone committed to reducing the plastic soup does not even question it – they should be banned.

Secretary of State for the Environment, Van Veldhoven, wants to speed up the transition to the circular economy. In her letter to the House of Representatives in June, she explains how we can achieve an economy without waste. Her plans however, mentioned little about avoiding these type of drink pouches that end up in the environment.

One part of her letter concerns the ban on plastic single-use disposable items. This plan, the Plastic Pact, still needs further working out and is expected to be presented in 2019. But what is already clear is that it does not include drink pouches because it covers products such as ear buds and plastic cutlery and not packaging.

In line with the transition agenda, the packaging sector is requested to design clever return systems. However, this is voluntary (Green Deals) and not mandatory. Manufacturers themselves are requested to set ambitious targets. This is meaningless when it comes to reducing drink packaging littering the streets. The drink pouches cannot be returned anywhere, neither to the shops where they are purchased nor can they be discarded in separate waste streams for recycling. The Cabinet may extend regulations to cover small plastic bottles with a deposit system, but these do not cover drink pouches.

As the drink pouches are made of several layers of aluminium foil, recycling is complicated and expensive. Furthermore, the question is whether the materials can even be reused as drink packaging. The rationale behind the circular economy is swept off the table by the added chemicals and additives. These cannot be removed by recycling.

Van Veldhoven writes that producers of non-recyclable packaging should pay a higher levy for collection and recycling. This is bound to cause resistance from the companies. They are highly unlikely to voluntarily agree to this.

As stated above, the Secretary of State for the Environment still needs to work out the plans for the Plastic Pact. The example of the drink pouches shows that she must not be limited to banning single-use plastic products only, but should also ban other problematic packaging such as drink pouches.

International investors set demands on plastic packaging

Amsterdam, 23 July 2018 – On the initiative of As You Sow, 25 international investors have united in the Plastic Solutions Investor Alliance. As You Sow is an American non-profit that encourages multinationals to become more sustainable.

The investors, with joint assets worth 1 billion dollars, have agreed to start a dialogue with multinationals that use a lot of single-use plastic packaging. These companies, that include Nestlé, Pepsi-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Unilever, must take responsibility to avoid further plastic pollution. The statement emphasises the following criteria.

  • All plastic packaging must be recyclable, reusable or compostable.
  • An annual report on the total plastic usage must be issued.
  • Alternative packaging must be developed, especially for single-use plastics.
  • Producers must take full responsibility. They must finance and facilitate collection and recycling in the markets in which they operate.
  • They must support government initiatives to reduce plastic.
  • They must expedite technological innovations.

The statement, one of the signatories of which is Robeco, complements the worldwide sustainability goals. The Plastic Solutions Investor Alliance ups the pressure on these companies to come up with real solutions.

Maria Westerbos, Director of the Plastic Soup Foundation says that “Setting requirements on financing capital is an important way to force companies to help reduce the plastic soup. Hopefully it will not take too long before international banks will also uphold ‘plastic soup’ criteria in their loans to multinationals.”


Read more:

Investment warning plastic packaging

Unilever largest polluter in the Philippines

FRANCOBLOGGO III: How much plastic do we use every day?

(This is Sean Bean’s second Francobloggo, read the first one here)

Now, I decided to collect all the plastic I accumulated through a single day (buying food, drinks, and products), to raise my own awareness of my waste footprint. I work as a builder/maintenance man when I’m not frollocking about playing music with Francobollo and other people, and as a result (juggling two full time jobs essentially) I have very little time. Cooking for me personally is a luxury and something I love doing when I can but the truth is I’m either on the road or on a worksite and am rarely at home with any downtime. So the only option is unfortunately to buy Tesco sandwiches and fast food when I’m out and about and in this super hot weather we’ve had I’ve probably bought more bottled waters etc than I have otherwise put together in about a year!

So after a normal day of work this is what I ended up with (left). These were just the items with plastic in them! I had about an equal amount in card and paper, which was a minor shock to even myself and i bought it! It’s so easy to neglect and we do it every day! So hey! We need to make more time for ourselves to prepare food and drinks for the day to cut down on a substantial amount of plastic waste (even though that can be harder than it sounds)!

Last but not least I am a major coffee fiend! I have a ritual of buying a chocolate croissant in the morning before work and have been a culprit of getting those non reusable and non recyclable cups (most of which have been commandeered by my girlfriend to be used as plant pots). But in light of embarking on our recent Plastic Diet we decided to try the reusable plastic cups; now here are my two cents on that.

When I went out on a stroll to find myself a reusable cup to take to get my coffee in the morning i realised that the alternatives for people on the same wage bracket i’m on (minimum wage) are plastic and in most cases virgin plastic, which we are trying to get away from right? And my options readily available were either spending £1 on a probably-virgin plastic cup from your standard big chain coffee shop or spending 8-15 pounds on a biodegradable cup or one made out of recycled plastics.

Now as a rather poor person, and especially a poor person in London, I see no alternative there; this has to change. I feel like these changes will only happen if they are made accessible to everyone in a wide scale way and it’s our collective responsibility to make sure that happens.

Get together shout from the rooftops, write your local MP, and above all write strongly worded letters to big corporations and share your thoughts/fears/experiences with them and highlight what the people want! Not what profit wants!

All the love from the least qualified person to speak about any of this in the world! xo

 

PSF note: Wanna know what options are there for reusable coffee cups? Check these out!

 

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recycling of reductie van plastic

The big battle – recycling or reducing plastic

Amsterdam, 22 June 2018 –  Several multinational companies have set goals recently on how to deal with plastic pollution that they themselves have caused with their single-use packaging. The goals have one striking similarity, whether they are set by McDonald’s , Procter & Gamble, Unilever or Coca-Cola – they all pledge that 100% of their packaging will be made of reusable, compostable or recycled materials by 2025 or 2030.

What they do not say is that they can continue with infinite uses of plastic packaging. They also do not give any guarantee that no plastic packaging will end up in the environment anymore.

Take Starbucks as an example. As early as 2008, Starbucks promised that 100% of its coffee cups would be either reused or recycled by 2015. Ten years later most of its four billion cups end up in landfills and elsewhere worldwide. The plastic coating of the cups is hardly recyclable and there is no system to collect the used cups. Furthermore, for the plastic soup, it is irrelevant whether the cups are made of recycled materials or not.

The only real solution to tackling plastic pollution is to dramatically reduce or ban the use of single-use plastic packaging. For Starbucks, the real solution is simple – get rid of the disposable cup and pour coffee into customers’ own personal cups or place a deposit on the cups so that they can be returned and reused.

While on the one hand countries are announcing bans on single-use plastics – see the recent initiatives of the European Union and India – other governments are allowing themselves to be deceived by the distraction manoeuvre of industry. Australian environment ministers, for example, recently declared that all Australian packaging must be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025. It is astonishing that these goals will be carried out by the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation whose members include 950 packaging companies.

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The UK wants to banish “avoidable plastic waste”

Amsterdam, January 18, 2018 – The expectation was that the British government’s policy to combat plastic pollution would be a firm one. May’s explanation of this plan, however, was met with skepticism and scorn. See, for instance, this example in The Independent.

May announced and defended the strategy, which is meant to be implemented over the coming 25 years. One of the action points aims to encourage supermarkets to include aisles for products that are not packaged in plastic. Other measures include an expansion of the existing tax on plastic bags, and banning plastic cups from government agencies.

May has been receiving harsh criticism. The time period during which “avoidable plastic waste” must be eliminated is too long by a quarter of a century. Keep in mind that with the current rate of the production of plastic, plastic pollution will double within a few years. It is entirely unclear to what extent obligations exist under the new plan. A tax on plastic packaging, however, is being examined.

Then there is the unfortunate term “avoidable plastic waste”. What is avoidable according to one person is the opposite according to another. Virtually all plastic is avoidable, because not too long ago people lived entirely without it. Plastic producers will publicise the wide range of benefits of plastic to ensure that their plastic is not avoidable. They will point out the role it plays in extending the shelf life of food or how the production of plastic uses less energy than the production of other materials. 

If the United Kingdom truly wants to be one of the environmentally-conscious countries in the world, as May announced, then it needs to take another approach. Legal reduction measures on plastic need to be implemented, and plastic packaging should be more expensive as a result of more taxation. Furthermore, and supermarkets should not only be required to offer non-packaged products on a number of shelves, but they should aim to expand the number of these shelves each year.