When we talk about ocean plastic pollution and what is being done about it, so much of the conversation focuses on the consumer, the end-user, to change what they are doing every day to reduce their plastic footprint. Things like not using plastic straws, cutting down on single-use plastic packaging, and recycling what you can so it doesn't end up in the ocean.
But what about the companies and corporations that are fueling the wave of plastic or the ones that sell their products in this plastic? What are they doing to share in the responsibility of solving this problem? There are a number of companies that have been in the news recently for the work they are doing to help ebb the plastic tide. We know that more needs to be done at this level but this is a start.
When you go to the produce section these days, you often see things like zucchini wrapped in plastic, green beans in a plastic bag, peeled oranges in plastic containers, and even apples in plastic. That seems crazy, right?
Well, British grocer Marks & Spencer is testing out a plastic-free produce department that will have 90 lines of fresh fruits and vegetables. There will even be trained "greengrocers" to help customers select and weigh their products for checkout. How cool is that?
Marks & Spencer also plans to become a zero-waste business by 2025. It's already cut 1,000 tons of plastic from its packaging and removed 75 million pieces of plastic and straws from its foodservice business.
"Our plan is to create long-term impact in the future using tangible insights from the store trial," said Louise Nicholls, Head of Food Sustainability for M&S. This is the type of forward thinking we need from our primary points of purchase. Way to go!
Many of us are familiar with the inventive and sometimes irreverent ice cream names from the Vermont-based ice cream company, Ben & Jerry's. Flavors like Cherry Garcia, The Tonight Dough, Phish Food, and Chunky Monkey have made their way into freezers around the world. Now, in an effort to stem the tide of plastic, they decided to remove single-use plastic from their 600 Scoop Shops by April of 2019.
The move is expected to keep 2.5 million plastic straws and 30 million plastic spoons from entering their supply chain. They have also announced the phase-out of clear plastic cups, plastic-lined cups, and plastic lids by the end of 2020. And they are looking into biodegradable and compostable coating options for their ice cream tubs.
"We are not going to recycle our way out of this problem," said Jenna Evans, Ben & Jerry's Global Sustainability Manager. "We, and the rest of the world, need to get out of single-use plastic." At 4ocean, we couldn't agree more...ice cream, anyone?
The world's largest packaged food company, Nestle, has been identified globally as a significant contributor to ocean plastic pollution. The negative shift in consumer perception around the world has forced them to take a look at their contribution to the problem. As the first step in their plan to address the issue, they will be eliminating plastic straws from all their product lines by February 2019 (Starbucks and McDonald's are following suit). By 2025, their packaging, including things like plastic films, trays, lids, and laminated paper cups will either be 100% recyclable or reusable.
The real elephant in the room with Nestle is their production and use of single-use plastic water bottles. They have committed to using more recycled material in their bottles, but when you're likely producing tens of thousands of bottles per minute, that still adds up. One can only remain optimistic that they will release further plans to reduce plastic use for this part of their business in the near future.
Maybe companies like Nestle will hook up with companies like London-based start-up, Skipping Rocks Lab. They are in the process of developing and perfecting a product they call, Ooho, which is a sustainable packaging material for liquids made from seaweed-extract. This natural alternative to plastic is flexible and edible. That's right, you heard that correctly. You can actually eat the package!
Skipping Rocks Lab are looking to revolutionize the water-on-the-go market, but the material is versatile enough to hold soda, liquor, and cosmetics and is said to be cheaper than plastic. There will still need to be additional research into how growing and harvesting the seaweed Ooho is made from might affect local ecosystems, but if this makes its way to the mainstream, it will be an absolute game-changer.
Photo: Skipping Rocks Lab
Now that you have seen what some other companies are doing out there to help stop the flow of plastic into our lives and our ocean, take a quick look at the 4ocean Ocean Plastic Recovery campaign, which will focus on recovering plastic that has already been used and discarded from high-impact areas before it ever has a chance to make it into the open ocean. Also, make sure to grab a 4ocean Reusable Bottle so you don't have to use single-use plastic bottles on your daily travels.
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