Collins Dictionary has dubbed ‘single-use’ its 2018 Word of the Year after the plastic-linked adjective saw a huge increase in global use. David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II series had a big hand in the word’s popularity, but the war on single-use plastic goes far beyond the documentary. In fact, as a member of The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s CE100, it’s been a major theme in our work for years.
One of the most obvious effects of single-use plastic to be seen in Blue Planet II was the number of plastic bottles that end up in the ocean. But since late-2016, we’ve been working with Skipping Rocks Lab to achieve their aim of stopping 1 billion plastic bottles going into the sea each year.
Skipping Rocks Lab has developed a bite-sized liquid container made from seaweed-based plastic that’s both biodegradable and edible – so, rather than throwing away a plastic bottle, you just eat it. We’re designing the machines needed to mass produce and fill these unique containers on site at events like marathons and festivals.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to make the world a better place while unlocking a $12 trillion opportunity for the global economy. And two of the SDGs, ‘Responsible Production and Consumption’ and ‘Life Below Water’, are directly related to reducing single-use plastics.
So in 2017, when the United Nations Global Compact asked us to explore disruptive technologies that could help meet the SDGs, we wanted to find something that would cut plastic waste. Using our cross-industry manufacturing experience to analyse the global technology market, we detailed how additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, could be the answer.
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It’s estimated the events industry will create 100,000 tonnes of waste in 2018 – equivalent to 1.4 billion plastic bottles. But this year, we worked with UK-based start-up Ecobooth to develop a sustainable business using their recycled event stands.
Ecobooth has created a way to compress plastic waste – like straws, bottles and bags – into robust, modular event stands. The stands are 100 per cent recycled and recyclable, and designed to be used at multiple events in different configurations. The most sustainable alternative trade show booths only achieve 40 per cent reusability.
The ingenious thing about Ecobooth is that they aren’t just reducing plastic waste, they’re also removing other industries’ waste from the ecosystem and turning it into something useful.
Our belief in a positive human future drives our work to cut plastic waste. And it’s work we’ll continue with partners around the world. To support this mission, we joined more than 290 businesses, governments and NGOs in signing up to The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment in November 2018. Through successful collaboration, our aim is to remove, reuse, recycle or compost all plastic packaging by 2025.
The problem of single-use plastic has reached the public consciousness this year, which is why Collins Dictionary made it their Word of the Year. Our hope is that such public awareness will drive more organisations to find alternatives that will overcome the plastic waste problem.