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Is single-use plastic killing Christmas?

HSM UK

As we face a global plastic crisis, Andrea Falco of HSM UK emphasises the importance of implementing a green policy and avoiding single-use plastic at work during the Christmas period.

Christmas, one of the biggest and most celebrated holidays of the year is upon us, which means only one thing – our use of single-use plastic will go into overdrive.

From crackers and wrapping paper to food and drink packaging, it may seem hard to avoid single-use plastic at this time of year.

However, as we’re now facing a global plastic crisis, urgent action is required by both businesses and consumers to tackle the problem.

Statistics highlighting how much single-use plastic is wasted at Christmas is alarming.

In 2018, it was estimated that we create 30% more rubbish, and that at least six million Christmas trees to over 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is discarded around this time of year.

As most of these products can’t be recycled, they’re sent to landfill where it can take decades to break down - causing further damage to our health and the environment.

Not only that, but our food and drink consumption is at a record high during the festive season.

According to WRAP the UK’s food and drink waste increases by a massive 80% over the Christmas period, with a staggering 230,000 tonnes of food binned.

Unavoidable

With the delicious smell of turkey roasting, and the sight of beautifully wrapped presents stacked high in front of the Christmas tree, it’s no surprise that plastic becomes a last thought – both at home and work.

However, with predictions highlighting that there will be 12 billion tonnes of global plastic waste by 2050, plastic has become one of the most pressing environmental issues.

This material now pervades almost every aspect of our lives, consequently having a fatal impact on human health and wildlife.

Latest figures also highlight that by 2050, if left unmanaged, the weight of plastic in the ocean will be more than the weight of fish, and our addiction to single-use plastic is to blame.

Furthermore, Greenpeace recently found that as little as 1kg of wrapping paper emits 3.5Kg of CO2 during its production process.

As a single sheet of wrapping paper can combine both plastic and glitter, it can’t be recycled, meaning it’s sent to landfill.

With these sites expected to overflow by 2022, this spells further disaster for future generations.

Studies now indicate that people eat at least 50,000 microplastic particles per year and that these particles are also ‘significantly contaminating the air’.

As most of our plastic waste lies in the oceans, which is consequently digested by fish and other animals, it’s no surprise that our health is now becoming seriously affected.

No time to waste

With nearly a quarter of England’s waste produced by businesses, the onus is on those in charge to take action against single-use plastic.

Many companies worldwide are now stepping up by implementing a ‘circular approach’ to waste, which ensures that no new plastic is produced, and no extra is sent to landfill.

Since 2017, thousands of organisations have pledged to reduce their use of plastic, with many signing the UK Plastics Pact and New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, emphasising how a global shift in the business mindset has to come from the top.

Major brands who are leading the way in efforts to encourage sustainability and combat the issue of single-use plastic include Sky, Coca Cola and Unilever.

Supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer’s have also promised to ditch glitter on all cards, gift wrap and food packaging this Christmas, whilst corporations like Disney have issued statements pledging the elimination of plastic straws in an effort to reduce waste.

What can you do?

To encourage an environmentally conscious workplace, a business must firstly set bold, long-term solutions by investing in a green policy.

It’s more important than ever for packaging plants, distribution and retailers of all sizes to use environmental technology when managing waste production.

Balers for example, can reduce the effect on the environment – especially at this crucial time of year.

Decreasing the volume of waste by up to 95%, baling machines reduce emissions and running costs, cutting the number of journeys to and from landfill sites, thus generating an ongoing return on investment (ROI).

Furthermore, as we move away from plastic packaging, businesses should encourage the use of other materials.

For those seeking plastic packing alternatives, there are a number of machines, including cardboard perforators that generate cardboard-based packaging using recycled offcuts of cardboard.

Using different materials reduces your carbon footprint and saves the amount of waste going to landfill.

So this means that you’ll not only save on paying towards the plastic packaging tax, but you’ll also save on landfill tax rates.

Finally, as end-users aim to improve their waste consumption by saying no to plastic cups, straws, cutlery and glitter, distribution centres and packaging plants, should stand alongside them by improving their own internal recycling procedures.

Aside from the positive environmental effects and ROI opportunities, fine tuning recycling procedures can help to improve company image, culture and internal productivity levels.

To foster a world without waste we must first change our behaviour by avoiding single-use plastic and increasing our use of more sustainable materials, such as perforated cardboard.

As this needs to come from the top down, it’s now on businesses to take the first step.

So, as you feast and celebrate your way into the new year, remember that the plastic crisis can’t be solved by end-users alone.

We all must work together to be part of the solution and with Christmas around the corner, now is the time to take action!