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Jim Hardisty, MD of Goplasticpallets.com – The Responsible Plastic Pallet Company, explains why he feels that plastic still beats other packaging alternatives when used responsibly in a closed loop scenario.
Those of you that watched the BBC’s recent three-part series ‘War on Plastic’ will have seen presenters Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani reveal yet more alarming stories and statistics about plastic waste, where it’s coming from and what we can all do to try and solve it.
Perhaps most shocking of all was the amount of British plastics left to rot on illegal dumpsites in Malaysia – now the biggest importer of British waste plastics – and the unlawful plastic fires being lit to help get rid of it, which are causing severe health problems for local residents.
The series triggered The British Plastics Federation (BPF) to speak out in defence of plastics with a statement that aligns very much with the messaging of our Responsibility campaign, which we launched earlier this year to encourage our customers to reuse and recycle their plastic pallets and boxes.
The BPF spokesperson said: “Plastics need to be used responsibly and where it provides value – and ultimately recycled in all cases where possible.” The BPF also summarised the many benefits plastics bring in terms of keeping the weight and fuel emissions of vehicles down and contributing significantly to minimising food waste, concluding: “The enemy is not plastic, it is plastic waste.”
Plastic packaging and the alternatives
At Goplasticpallets.com we share this belief. As businesses and consumers we all need to do our bit by using fewer single-use plastic items; but plastic as a material should not be seen as the enemy as it has huge benefits over alternatives for a vast range of applications.
So, what would a world without plastic look like? In many cases glass can do the same job as plastic, but it is more liable to breakage, plus considerably heavier, which directly impacts on transportation costs.
Likewise a switch from plastic to paper or cardboard for most applications would not be viable, as like glass, paper is heavier. If supermarkets were to use paper packaging instead of plastic they would lose the extended product shelf life supported by advanced plastic films. Increased use of paper and cardboard would also use more natural resources, leading to more trees being cut down – trees that take years to grow back – and causing major deforestation, which is a big air polluter.
Dr Chris Williams, a technical specialist at Hiden Analytical quoted in a recent article in Plastics & Rubber World that: “Paper production uses 17 times more water than plastic, while recycling paper requires 91% more energy than plastic, kilo for kilo.”
To help address the problem of plastic waste, we should not be looking for ways to replace plastic, but rather educating manufacturers, businesses and consumers alike about how plastics can be used responsibly to develop a circular economy.
Creating a circular economy
The concept of a circular economy is not a new one. In the past you might have heard it referred to as ‘cradle to cradle’ or ‘cradle to grave’, but essentially the concept is the same; a circular economy is one that keeps resources in use for as long as possible.
In recent years, the UK has made great strides in transitioning from a linear economy to a circular one. According to data provided by WRAP and Business in the Community, the UK has a circular economy estimated to be worth around £40bn.
Recycling and waste management initiatives driven by central government are a key factor fuelling the growth of our circular economy. One example is the Plastic Packaging Tax that the government announced following the 2018 Budget, which promised to introduce a world-leading new tax on the production and import of plastic packaging with less than 30% recycled content, subject to consultation.
Retailers and brands alike are also a big driving factor in the UK’s transition to a circular economy. Pernod Ricard the well-known French manufacturer of alcoholic beverages is one example of a retailer who is well down the road towards its circular goals. Pernod Ricard is reported to have achieved 99% recyclability of the company’s packaging with 96% of the waste from its production sites in 2017/2018 recycled, according to Packaging News’ July Sustainability report.
We too at Goplasticpallets.com have made significant inroads this year on our journey towards a circular model. Not only are 96% of the plastic pallets we supply made from recycled material, but this year we have recovered and recycled more than 134 tonnes of our customers’ plastic waste, which will be ground down and recycled to make new, long life plastic pallets and boxes.
Closed loop recycling
The pressure is on businesses more than ever before to evaluate and improve their waste recycling strategies. At Goplasticpallets.com we believe that adopting a closed loop approach to waste management can really help businesses achieve their challenging recycling targets, without escalating costs.
Putting a closed loop system in place can be as simple as using returnable transit packaging for the collection and disposal of waste. For example, returnable plastic containers are specifically designed for multiple trips over an extended life. These durable plastic containers offer a rapid return on investment and a lower cost per trip than single trip products. According to industry research, plastic containers are more carbon efficient than single trip cardboard after just 20 trips, will recover their cost after just 12 trips and can be reused for at least 92 trips.
They also offer substantial benefits for bulk waste recycling over the currently wider used metal container, since they are more hygienic, lighter to handle and weather-resistant. Ultimately, at the end of their long working life, plastic containers can be re-ground and reused to produce new, reusable plastic pallets and boxes – creating a double win for waste recycling.
For help recycling your plastic pallets and boxes, call Goplasticpallets.com’s recycling team on +44 (0)1323 744057 or email your enquiry to: email@example.com. Alternatively browse the UK’s largest range of plastic pallets, pallet boxes and smaller containers: goplasticpallets.com