WhatPackaging? Team picks up the top sustainability headlines that made headlines this week
Unilever recycles post-consumer polypropylene food packaging: Unilever has joined Nextek’s global NEXTLOOPP project to produce food grade recycled polypropylene (rPP) from post-consumer packaging waste. Polypropylene (PP) is a packaging material used around the world for food. Nevertheless, post-consumer PP packaging is not largely recycled in the conventional mechanical recycling infrastructure. Unilever is committed to halving the use of virgin plastic in its packaging and removing more than 100,000 tons of plastic by 2025.
EU bans single-use plastics: Ten single-use plastic (SUP) products that have been spoiling Europe’s beaches for years will be largely banned from July 3, when the 2019 EU single-use plastic directive comes into force. Cotton swabs, cutlery, plates, straws, stirring sticks, balloon sticks and styrofoam drinks and food containers can no longer be sold from Saturday. In addition, oxo-degradable plastic bags are disposed of, which are marketed as biodegradable but, according to the EU, decompose into microplastics that remain in the environment for a long time. These single-use plastics make up around 70% of marine litter in Europe. Cafes and restaurants will now be forced to stock mugs and straws made from bamboo, cellulose or other biodegradable materials. SUP bags, bottles, beverage and food containers for immediate consumption, packets and wrappers, tobacco filters, toiletries and wet wipes will instead continue to be restricted while manufacturers pay for cleaning and run awareness campaigns about their environmental impact. The ultimate goal is an EU circular economy model that will make remaining single-use plastics reusable or recyclable by 2030.
Bamboo bottles as a green alternative to plastic: Even though the UN estimates that a million drinking bottles are added to the world’s plastic garbage heap every minute, Dhritiman Borah, a resident of Assam, has a ray of hope. A few years ago he started making bamboo bottles – an initiative that has found many buyers all over India. Bora, who has over 20 years of experience in craftsmanship, said he only made a few hundred bottles initially, but now he has 5,000 bottles coming out of his workshop every month. Known as the poor man’s wood, bamboo is also the fastest growing plant and plays a vital role in the food and nutrition security of the tribal-dominated northeastern provinces of India. India has the highest levels of bamboo cultivation with 13.96 million hectares (34.4 million acres) of land. It is the second richest country after China in terms of bamboo diversity with 136 species (125 native and 11 exotic).
Takeaway food pollutes the oceans: Plastic from take-away and convenience foods pollutes rivers and oceans, according to a new study. Scientists analyzed global inventories that cataloged more than 12 million pieces of trash found in and around rivers, oceans, coasts and the sea floor. They found that eight out of ten items listed were made of plastic. And 44% of that plastic waste was takeaway food and drinks. Single-use bottles, food containers and packaging, and plastic bags accounted for the largest share. Actions to reduce plastic pollution have focused on straws, cotton swabs, and drink stirrers, which are relatively easy to replace. The researchers say these measures are welcome, but also recommend tackling plastic from take-away foods and drinks. They say this type of plastic is often disposed of outdoors after only a very short period of time and should be prioritized. You write in the journal Nature Sustainability suggesting three possible strategies to address the problem – replacing plastic in takeaway food and drink with more degradable materials; introduce avoidable plastic bans such as bags; and consider deposit refund programs to encourage shoppers to return take-away products.
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Recycled polypropylene; EU plastic ban; Bamboo bottles