What’s in a hashtag? #NewPlasticsEconomy

One aspect of our work here at Conker House which has both surprised and delighted us is the range and breadth of material that we are immersed in. Our collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has found us delving into topics as diverse as textiles, plastics and urban and agricultural regeneration. We have found their groundbreaking reports resonating far beyond the scope of our desks and feel compelled to share the messages they contain.

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For today’s blog, we’d like to showcase just a few of the lessons we learnt from The New Plastics Economy. A key message coming from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation across all areas of industry and all areas of the world is that we need to move from a linear economy to a circular economy. From the very outset of a product being made, we should be thinking about how the components can be repurposed further down the line. In terms of plastics, while the world is getting better at recycling, we still need to pay more attention to reducing use in the first place.

In a discussion I had about plastics a few days ago, someone pointed out the staggering success of the plastic bag tariff. Since the 5p charge was introduced, figures suggest a reduction in single-use bags of around 70–80%. However, my fear is that this has simply made us feel like we are addressing the plastics problem when we are in fact only doing the bare minimum. I would never go and do a supermarket shop without my own reusable bags, but come Christmas online shopping, the deliveries seem to arrive in countless layers of plastic. How can we start to address these aspects of plastic use?

Perhaps it’s just my particular filter bubble, but awareness does seem to be growing with the recent #nobluenogreen hashtag trending. The Natural Science Museum’s annual lecture just a few days ago saw their Director of Science, Ian Owens, announce their commitment to stop selling single-use plastic water bottles. Blue Planet II is certainly bringing to light the impact of plastics on the oceans. Even my nine-year-old was vowing to become a marine biologist to ensure she could help protect the future of our marine life and Jo’s four-year-old was similarly impassioned by an episode of the Octonauts during which Spinner dolphins had to be rescued from the plight of a plastic-filled reef.

So how can we make the next plastics revolution happen right now? Pressure certainly needs to be applied to big companies to make systemic changes, aided and abetted by the excellent work of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. We need more zero-waste food shops allowing customers to fill their own reusable containers. We need campaigns like #refusethestraw to gain the same momentum as the single-use plastic bag campaign garnered. Moving to a household much less dependent on plastic is certainly on our list of New Year’s Resolutions. Is it on yours?

#NewPlasticsEconomy #circulareconomy #NoBlueNoGreen #refusethestraw






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