OUR POINT OF VIEW ON PLASTICS
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The plastics market is experiencing commercial instability and increased scrutiny from media and consumers. This report explores the socio-cultural factors surrounding plastics, the current global plastics market focusing on the destabilising effects of upcoming Chinese regulations, and provides strategic considerations to help mitigate risk and develop compliant, commercially viable and innovative solutions. Nathan Gray, Head of Sustainability at Helistrat comments:
The devastating environmental, social and health impacts of plastic waste are undeniable. Being responsible and taking positive action doesn’t have to result in extra cost or capital for companies. Often interventions to move away from mixed plastic production and move waste up the hierarchy can open doors to solutions that can create new revenue streams or cost savings through efficiencies. Inaction will not only perpetuate environmental damage but expose companies and brands to reputational and financial risk premiums. Whether you have already started your journey to remove plastic waste from your business or are taking the first steps now, this report provides both insight and guidance to help you safeguard your business and the environment you operate.
MALIGNANT MATERIAL: THE PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF PLASTIC The negative environmental and health effects of mass plastic production and waste entered the public consciousness in 2017. Although the existence of the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, a mass of plastic waste in the ocean totalling 1 million sq. km1, has long been known within the environmental community, the severity of the plastics problem became a universal issue during the past year. We are now producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic each year, half of which is for single use. The result is more than 8 million tons of plastic being dumped into our oceans annually2. Heightened awareness of the issue has been propelled by numerous factors, including: •
Cultural drivers such as the release of David Attenborough’s documentary series, Blue Planet II, which showcased the devastation plastic waste has caused to marine life
New research, including a global study which showed 83% of drinking water sampled is contaminated with microplastics3
Emerging technologies such as blockchain have enabled social enterprises to incentivise the collection of plastic in developing communities
Innovative retail projects like the Adidas x Parley shoes created with marine plastic waste have proven the commercial potential of plastic waste
Increased awareness, coupled with growing global consumer demand for brands to be environmentally responsible, has put a spotlight on the plastics problem. This can pose significant risk to companies who do not take credible actions to reduce their plastic production and waste. A series of global studies throughout 20152017 showed that 33% of consumers actively select brands they believe are environmentally and socially responsible4, 93% of consumers want more brands to support environmental or social issues5 and 62% will not buy a brand they think is not meeting its environmental or social obligations6. Consumers are buying based on shared values, and companies seen to be behaving irresponsibly risk irrevocably tarnishing their brand equity and losing market share. The wave of consumer and media interest in plastics is likely to intensify into 2018 as demand for sustainable, responsible products continue to rise. It is crucial companies scrutinise their existing supply chains and identity potential solutions, including circular economy interventions, to unlock plastics true value and combat the growing plastics crisis.