The role of sustainability and recyclability within the plastics industry has become increasingly important, with governments and advocacy groups pushing for major changes to help combat pollution, and companies doing their part to help limit the amount of plastic waste that is produced.
We’ve written on this subject before in our articles concerning the plastic straw debate and Maharashtra’s single-use plastic ban, but for this piece we’ll be examining the effects of plastic packaging taxes and other industry changes and what they can mean for companies, consumers, and the world.
Changes in France
As Plastics Today recently reported, France has recently begun an initiative to utilize only recycled plastic packaging by the year 2025. Because of this ambitious push, France has been looking at ways to reduce the production of plastics for goods, particularly in the packaging industry.
Some of the developments that have come out of France’s efforts include:
- Companies that produce plastic packaging for use in the country that utilize non-recycled plastics will be penalized beginning in 2019
- Once the initiative fully goes into place, products that use only virgin plastic, which currently many plastic bottles and containers do, would cost an additional 10% in tax, something country representatives believe will encourage manufacturers to use recycled materials as consumers will likely balk at the increase
- It is unclear at this time if the plastic packaging produced by companies for French use would need to come from 100% recycled material or if merely a certain percentage of recycled material is needed to meet requirements
- The country is also cracking down on over-packaging of goods and the disposable nature of plastics packaging, hoping to reduce how much material is needed and used regardless of its recycled material percentage
- Additionally, France has been part of the movement to ban the plastic straw, and many French companies are looking to alter their offerings now, prior to the implementation of a French law in 2020
- France also intends to increase taxes on distributing plastic waste to landfills while decreasing taxes for operations that utilize recycling
One interesting takeaway from all this that Plastics Today notes is the fact that there is something of a catch-22 with the French proposal. While the country is looking to enforce a “recycled plastics only” initiative, many plastics can only be recycled so many times before they begin to break down. To maintain their composition and usefulness, virgin plastic needs to be added to the mixture.
More information will likely emerge in the coming months, but looking at practical aspects like these is essential as governments and companies seek to refine processes and reduce pollution.
Changes in the UK
As the site Food & Wine reported, 52% of British respondents in a recent study stated they would be in support of a plastic sales tax to help combat pollution. This is in comparison to 33% of Americans who supported such a tax in the same study.
One possible rationale for why British respondents favored the concept over their U.S. counterparts is the fact that in 2015 a plastic tax was put into place in the UK for plastic bags which led to a more than 80% decrease in the use of the bags. In short, Britain has seen significant successes from such intervention and taxation efforts.
Some of the developments that have been seen in the UK include:
- BBC’s Blue Planet II documentary highlighted the significant problems plastics are causing for the world’s oceans, touching upon the substance’s harm to wildlife and microplastics making their way into drinking water. This documentary was seen as a watershed moment for public pressure and outrage
- Coca-Cola, which produces over 38,000 tons of plastics packaging in the UK every year, has pledged to double the amount of recyclable plastic within its bottles
- Additionally, Iceland, a British supermarket chain, has made a pledge to remove plastics from packaging by 2023 and is already incorporating more materials like paper, glass, and cellulose into its packaging materials
Changes in the U.S. and Beyond
Some of the major developments that have come out of the U.S. and other countries recently that could have significant impacts for consumers and companies include:
- Supermarkets such as Tesco and Walmart have promised to reduce how much plastic they utilize in their packaging moving forward
- Other companies, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Unilever, Nestle, and L’Oreal, have pledged to make their packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025
- Santa Barbara has initiated an ordinance making it illegal for businesses to distribute plastic straws, stirrers, and cutlery to customers who do not ask for them, with disabled individuals being an exemption
- More than 60 countries have so far introduced legislation that is designed to reduce the use of single-use plastics and plastic bags, with Pacific island nation Vanuatu being the first to completely ban single-use bags, straws, and food containers which have been made from polystyrene
To help combat plastic pollution and cut down on the amount of plastic waste, specifically single-use plastic container water, a few key possibilities are available.
- Continue to produce plastics with more efficient methodologies and utilize more recycled plastic materials into the compositions of new products
- Develop more efficient plastic containers that use less plastic material, and develop containers that can be reutilized in the future
- Use alternatives such as wood, paper, glass, and cellulose for packaging materials, though, it should be noted that this poses difficulties as these materials are heavier than plastics and ultimately result in more energy consumption and pollution via exhaust fumes from transportation
- Use bioplastics, particularly those which are biodegradable (not all types are), though this option currently brings with it a significant increase in cost compared to traditional plastics
Let’s All Do Our Part!
With plastic recycling more important than ever, it’s vital that we as an industry embrace changes both for the good of the field and the world. Contact Shini USA today if you need help with your plastics processing so we can work together to reduce plastic waste!