Consumer goods companies partnering on alternative to recycling

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CEO’s from firms like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, Unilever, and PepsiCo have been on the defensive, much like coal and oil companies came under pressure over climate change in previous years, reports the Straits Times.

“I see parallels to coal,” Greenpeace executive director Jennifer Morgan told Reuters after she and Procter & Gamble boss David Taylor had a feisty exchange at a joint news conference at the forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos. “It’s clear they are trying to not be regulated,” she added.

The CEOs of the companies at Davos vowed they would cut their use of plastic packaging – including a number of initiatives. However, Greenpeace took the opportunity to use this to call for a global ban on plastic packaging, with a goal of “peak plastic,” reports Reuters.

Bank of river full of plastic garbage

PJeganathan (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The [plastic waste problem is growing

According to the U.S. Environmental Program, about 8 million tons of plastics enter our oceans annually, killing wildlife and entering the food chain. Plastics are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050.

To make matters worse, microplastics are in our soil, our water, our air, and getting into our bodies. We don’t really know the eventual consequences this will have on human and wildlife. What we do know is that plastic takes an eternity to degrade, and plastic is threatening the health of the planet and its inhabitants,

With the data we have and television documentaries like Sir David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet,” the plastic waste is now at the top of the summit’s agenda.

“I sometimes wonder if we’re in the branded litter business, branded trash,” Unilever Chief Executive Alan Jope half-joked after he was asked during a panel debate if consumers were interested in the source of the company’s products.

“Two years ago at Davos, Unilever was in front on plastics. At the moment it’s very high on our radar to do something about plastic waste above and beyond…the rest of the industry.”

By selling more than milk and embracing the Internet  the few thousand remaining milkmen  including ...

By selling more than milk and embracing the Internet, the few thousand remaining milkmen, including Neil Garner, have breathed new life into the cherished tradition

Leon Neal, AFP

Bringing back the milkman

On Thursday, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Danone, Mars Petcare, Mondelēz International and others announced they were partnering on a potential solution to limit future waste. This is in addition to limiting their use of plastic packaging.

The new project is called Loop. It offers consumers an alternative to recycling – a system that isn’t working well these days. Loop is basically a zero-waste platform that will be launched in New York City and Paris in May this year.

“While recycling is critically important, it is not going to solve waste at the root cause,” says Tom Szaky, CEO and co-founder of TerraCycle, a company that is known for recycling hard-to-recycle materials, and one of the partners behind the project.

“We run what is today the world’s largest supply chain on ocean plastic, collecting it and going into Unilever and Procter & Gamble products and so on,” Szaky says. “But every day, more and more gets put in the ocean, so no matter how much we clean the ocean, we’re never going to solve the problem. That’s really where Loop emerged…To us, the root cause of waste is not plastic, per se, it’s using things once, and that’s really what Loop tries to change as much as possible.”

Loop is a new way to shop – offering about 300 items, from Tide detergent to Pantene shampoo, Häagen-Dazs ice cream to Crest mouthwash — all in reusable packaging.

After using the products, the empty containers are placed in a Loop tote bag and when the bag is full, the containers are then picked up by a delivery service, cleaned and refilled, and shipped out to consumers again. It’s sort of like bringing back the milkman who used to deliver dairy products to our doors years ago.

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