A plastic-free future lies in the hands of supply chains

October 12, 2018
INNOVATION DOJO, Plastic, Sustainability, Best Practice
Blogs, Best Practice

What is the problem with single-use plastics?

We are hearing about the huge environmental impact that plastics are having on our planet, more specifically our oceans and wildlife, more than ever before. It is an issue causing worldwide controversy, but what can be done about it?

There was a time, not too long ago when the majority of people were unaware of the devastating impact that single-use plastics are having on the world. Now, however, it is almost impossible to escape. From videos on social media sites to news reports, parliamentary debates, magazine articles, and documentaries, not least David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II, it is now hard to believe that there is anyone in the world who does not think twice about their environmental impact when it comes to their buying habits.

As a result of mankind’s irresponsible disposal of plastic waste, not only are the aesthetics of our beaches and oceans being ruined but microplastics now also litter our food chain. The plastic that is dumped into the ocean breaks down into smaller parts and microbeads, which are later swallowed by fish and work their way through the food chain and onto our dinner plates. It goes without saying, however, is not the only humans affected, but every level of the ocean food chain.

It is now thought that up to 90% of seabirds contain some form of microplastics. It is a well-known fact that seabird populations have significantly plummeted in recent decades. The question is, how much of a role has plastic played in this issue? The answer is currently unconfirmed due to current gaps within the research, but the observational data collected surely speaks for itself.

Other issues are caused by fishing nets intended for small fish, entangling larger animals such as whales, turtles and seals. Plastic bags and packets being mistaken for jellyfish and choking sea life, and straws, cotton buds and ‘six-pack’ rings causing physical damage to marine animals.

What are the market leaders doing?

Virgin Australia – The airline has replaced its annual usage of 260,000 plastic straws and 7.5 million plastic drinks stirrers with paper and bamboo alternatives.

Carlsberg – The business has introduced the new ‘snap pack’, removing the usual ring packaging that you typically see holding six and four packs of beer together, and replacing it with spots of glue, reducing the amount of plastic it would typically use by up to 76%. Carlsberg predicts that they will reduce plastic wastage by 1,200 tons per year.

Coca-Cola – The world’s largest beverage company has committed to making 100% of its packaging recyclable, launching its largest-ever advertising campaign committed to encouraging consumers to recycle, as well as starting a waste recovering scheme in which they aim to recover the equivalent amount of plastic from the environment as they produce each year.

Starbucks – The global coffee giant said announced that it would be aiming to eliminate plastic straws from its 28,000+ locations by 2020.

McDonald’s – The largest restaurant chain in the world has announced it will roll out paper straws in all 1,361 UK and Ireland based locations in 2019. The company will also be trialling other alternatives in select restaurants across Europe and USA.

Iceland – The first food retailer in the world to commit to removing all plastic packaging from its own brand products by 2023. So far Iceland has replaced the packaging for two food meal ranges, which now use paper-based trays, saving 850 tonnes of non-recyclable black plastic.

 

What else is being done to combat this issue?

Well, aside from the vast increase in awareness being raised through the media, the governments and politicians around the world are launching environmental plans and restrictions looking to eliminate all single-use plastics, moving to reusable, recyclable or compostable alternatives.

The prime minister of UK, Theresa May, has made a pledge to stamp out avoidable plastic waste in Britain by 2042. This will be part of her “national plan of action”. The British government is looking at the possibility of banning certain products completely and using taxes in order to change consumers’ habits.

These new restrictions will in time force businesses, and therefore procurement professionals to work alongside their supply chains to source alternative packaging, with avoidable single-use plastics being completely banned by 2025. Similarly, the European Commission is working on banning plastic plates, cutlery, cotton buds and straws by 2021.

There are already more alternative products on the market such as bamboo toothbrushes, pasta drinking straws, paper-based cotton buds and mushroom-based packaging. The manufacturers of these products are feeling the benefit of their early adoption and are rapidly winning competitive advantage, particularly within the millennial market, where sustainability is a shopping priority.

In a survey of 5,000 British consumers, Iceland found that 80% would encourage a supermarket’s move to go plastic-free, 91% would be more likely to encourage friends and family to shop at a store with a plastic-free stance, and nearly 68% think that other supermarkets should take this approach.

What can you do as a procurement professional?

As mentioned before, those ahead of the curve are gaining popularity and competitive advantage amongst young consumers. So needless to say, but we recommend you make these changes as soon as possible in order to boost your own success. Below are some key points to consider;

  • Ensure to plan ahead, do not just wait until the government put the aforementioned restrictions in place.
  • Review your existing plastic procurement and carefully assess what is ‘essential’. Think innovatively about how you could overcome your challenges without the use of plastic.
  • Start off small, making minor but impactful changes to your business.
  • Make changes within your office to minimise your business’ footprint by reducing or removing plastic cutlery, straws, cups etc, by sourcing plastic-free alternatives.
  • Introduce a ‘reuse and recycle’ programme both in the office and amongst your customers (if applicable).
  • Involve yourself as a member of your business’ ‘Green Team’. Procurement professionals, as implied by the title, have a huge amount of power in making these changes. – Don’t have a green team yet? Why not start one?
  • Speak with your supply chain about alternative materials and innovative ideas for your products and packaging.

Innovation Dojo allows procurement professionals to create their own innovation portal to capture and collaborate with suppliers. Our solution allows you to retain the human component with your suppliers and develop even stronger relationships. Suppliers can suggest improvement ideas on their own or reply to requests made by the host. All ideas can be assessed under our common methodology to prioritise the best ones. Find out more here.

 

Market Dojo is an eSourcing solutions provider, that offers a range of on-demand and easy to use tools for Sourcing (eRFx and eAuctions), Supplier Onboarding, Category Spend Insight, Buyer-Supplier collaboration and full Enterprise offering (including Savings Tracking, Contracts Management, SPM & SRM). The business is focused on helping procurement professionals save time and money, whilst they work with companies such as Aggreko, Interserve, Travis Perkins, Metroline and Emaar amongst many others.

For more information on how Market Dojo can help you contact us at info@marketdojo.com or +44 0117 332 5718.

Connect with the author of this article on LinkedIn  – Toby Pedder

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