Ecosurety’s managing director, James Piper, participated in an environmental panel as part of the event on 3 May in London.
Other panelists included Nick Brown, head of sustainability at Coca-Cola European Partners, Jane Bevis, chair of OPRL and Gavin Partington, director general of the British Soft Drinks Association.
The chosen topic for the panel was “How can we improve recycling infrastructure?” and it was chaired by Sanjay Patel, the founder of SimpleBetterHuman and the Packaging Collective, who started off by saying that when it comes to joining up the environmental debate, “one of the things that the industry needs is continuity”.
Questions asked by the audience focused on whether the industry has failed to promote the benefits of plastics, what could be done to change the narrative and whether there is sufficient infrastructure in this country to manage increases in recycling.
A discussion on the design of DRS
One question that the panel was asked in particular was “What is a well designed DRS (deposit return scheme), and would you withdraw support if you did not believe it was well designed?” Answering first, Nick said “we want a scheme to work, because it’s not whether we get a deposit return scheme now, it’s what it looks like.”
Jane also commented on how it was important to be “absolutely clear about what problem the scheme is solving”, and that on the go recycling is the area that presents the biggest challenge as infrastructure is lacking.
In response, James added that although it was important to look at DRS from the consumers’ point of view, the problem is that 66% of the UK’s plastic is exported, and that in countries like Asia, a huge amount of plastic is coming in and ending up in rivers and oceans as a result. He also said that if you introduce DRS, it can contribute to the ocean plastics problem as “we’re suddenly collecting more plastic which could potentially be exported” due to lack of infrastructure in the UK, and that overall, producers need to take more responsibility for the bottles they produce “from start to finish”.
He finished by saying that by sending waste back to manufacturers, it would provide an opportunity to “join up the chain a bit more”, something which would benefit the industry as a whole.
Changing the narrative on plastics
Another key topic that was discussed focussed on the need to remind consumers why PET is such a great material, why it is used and the properties it has, in terms of it being lightweight, unbreakable and re-sealable.
The panel agreed that no matter how well designed a piece of packaging is, if it’s not disposed of responsibly, “the issue is the same”, and that genuine action was needed by the industry. The audience were also asked to guess how long the material of a general PET bottle could last for – 30 years, 50 years, or 70+ years?
The correct answer was 70+ years, and Sanjay explained that after use the bottle could be turned into polyester for clothing and then insulation for housing and offices. Commenting on this, James said there was an opportunity here for “facts, facts, facts” and that all industries that use plastics need to be talking more about their life cycle, something which “consumers are craving”.
If you would like to discuss how any of the topics here affect your business, please contact our team.
Marketing projects specialist
Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.
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