Avoiding single use plastic in our daily lives can be hard work. Whether it’s at the supermarket, at work or out socialising, plastic is all around us.
Individuals, businesses and governments all have an important role to play.
The choices we make as consumers are greatly influenced by producer and retailer decisions, which in turn are influenced and regulated by government actions.
Part of the solution lies with businesses, and many in Wales are making changes – innovating to cut down on plastic waste. Here are just a few examples.
Green Man Festival
Green Man Festival, held in the Brecon Beacons each summer, wants to be true to its name and be very green! The organisers say that eco-friendliness is fundamental to their event. Whilst others festivals and businesses are only beginning to ban plastic straws now, Green Man is proud to boast it has never stocked straws at its bars and says this has saved 250,000 straws from landfill since 2007!
In addition to being strawless, attendees at this years’ festival will need to buy a reusable stacking cup for use at the bars. This cup will double as a snazzy souvenir to take home, or if the cups are left behind, they will be washed, dried and stored for reuse next year.
In the food department, all traders’ packaging and cutlery will be certifiably compostable. Punters are encouraged to bring their own reusable coffee cups, and will receive 50p discounts at coffee stalls if they do. The festival claims it has saved around 480,000 disposable cups through this initiative.
The festival organisers are aware that glitter livens up a festival experience; they’re also aware that glitter is a micro-plastic which damages the environment and the ocean. This year, all traders and face painters will be using biodegradable glitter made from plant cellulose and metallised aluminium.
This year, Green Man has teamed up with Help Refugees and Newport to Calais Aid Collective. They will be collecting unwanted, unbroken camping equipment and leftover food which will be sent to refugees around the world.
In January Iceland, whose head office is in Deeside in north-east Wales, committed to becoming the first major retailer in the world to eliminate plastic packaging from all of its own label foods, aiming to do this by 2023.
Iceland says they are using the latest technologies to create paperboard trays from sustainable forestry and a production process largely run by bioenergy, and that these products are recyclable in the paper stream when rinsed well.
In May, they pledged to support the Plastic Free Trust Mark, which will appear on products packaged without plastic. They are the first major UK retailer to do adopt the mark, which will empower consumers to make plastic free choices.
Earlier this month, Iceland became the first UK supermarket to trial a reverse vending machine in Wales, via an installation in its Mold store. The machine was installed to help Iceland better understand consumer perceptions and appetite for plastics recycling technology, findings on which will be shared with the UK Government to support the Deposit Return Scheme consultation.
These steps could help cut down on the 1 million tonnes of plastic generated by supermarkets in the UK each year.
The NHS is Wales and the UK’s biggest employer, and it creates more waste than all the municipal waste generated by countries like Malta and Luxembourg. Some plastic is needed for medical use but much can be done to reduce single-use plastic in the NHS. This problem requires private sector innovation and public-sector support to solve. One example of such collaboration is the Sterimelt machine, created by Cardiff-based company Thermal Compaction Group (TCG).
The Sterimelt machine converts clinical sterilisation wrap, used in operating theatres, into solid blocks of polypropylene plastic. These blocks have commercial value and TCG buys them back from the NHS. The blocks are then turned into pellets and 3D filament. The pellets can be made into any new plastic items and the 3D filament can be used to 3D print objects such as plaster casts, cups or kidney bowls.
The world’s first Sterimelt machine was installed at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, initially receiving wrap from Royal Gwent Hospital, which would usually have been sent to landfill or incineration. The project was the winner of the Innovation category at the NHS Sustainability Awards 2017.
How you can help
We want to see the end of plastics entering our oceans, from the largest items to the smallest microplastics. Broadly, it is good to follow the rule of – avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle.
Join our fight against plastic pollution to be the first to hear what you can do to help and to receive tips on how to reduce plastic waste in your own life.
Together, we can turn the tide on plastic.