The plastic waste problem affects us all. Nearly every piece of plastic ever produced on this planet still exists today. 85% of the total amount of plastic waste is not recycled and accumulates on our landfills and in our oceans. With increasing global development and consumption, the problem only seems to be getting worse. Predictions are that the amount of plastic waste doubles each decade. Considering we produce about 300 million tons of plastic each year, this means we are in deep trouble.
Ocean plastic causes a lot of damage. Where the big chunks of plastic impair ships and pollute our beaches, the smaller pieces get ingested by marine animals who clog up inside and die a slow painful death. Below the surface, the problem gets even worse. Since plastic is not biodegradable, it breaks down into ever smaller pieces: micro- and nanoplastics. The nanoplastics are especially nasty: not only do they attract and bind toxic chemicals from the water, experimental research has found that nanoplastics travel through cell membranes. This means that if you are a seafood lover, you are accumulating particles of toxic nanoplastics in your body each time you eat seafood.
Many businesses are directly affected by the plastic problem. Especially the packaging industry and food and softdrinks producers are vulnerable to the risks associated with the plastic waste problem. Examples of business risks include:
In the past few years, a number of initiatives have emerged that address different areas of the solution: preventing the increase of additional plastic; the extraction and re-use of existing waste, and finding feasible methods to recycle the plastic waste. All these initiatives have at least one thing in common: they rethink business and engage and activate different groups of stakeholders to address the problem. For example:
The three examples mentioned earlier, have in common that they rethink the status quo to come up with new business models and sustainable innovation in order to create value. Are you ready to address the sustainability issues of your business in a way that creates value for the company and society? Please contact Josée van der Hoek, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +31 6 28 02 18 80 for more information.
UNEP (2014) Valuing Plastics: The Business Case for Measuring, Managing and Disclosing Plastic Use in the Consumer Goods Industry, Wageningen University dossier on micro-and nanoplastics research