Sustainable Consumption and Production of Plastics
Reducing and avoiding plastics can make a big contribution to reduce plastic waste. Products can for example be designed in a way, that they use less packaging or that they can be reused and recycled. To think about reusable or degradable alternatives is therefore a task for businesses, but also for consumers. The latter for example have the choice to refuse too much packaging, move to more sustainable or reusable alternatives or bring their own bag, cup or cutlery.
Especially single-use plastic consumption of items like cups, plastic bags and straws is rapidly increasing, mainly in food packaging for better transportation and durability. Plastic packaging supports “on-the-go” lifestyles with ready-made meals and single-use plastic items for takeaway. Recently, plastics in food delivery, takeaway and online commerce saw an additional rise due to COVID-19 related closures and distancing measures. At the same time however, single-use plastics cause environmental pollution. They are only used once for a relatively short period of time before they are thrown away, where they often land in the environment.
‘Rethinking Plastics’ encourages exchange and pilot activities on sustainable consumption and production of plastics and supports reduction and reuse approaches to prevent plastic waste from ending up in the environment and in the ocean.
Less Packaging in Deliveries
China's express delivery business is the largest in the world and has become an indispensable part of residents’ daily lives. It has made shopping easier, but also produces a large amount of packaging. In 2020, express delivery services generated nearly 15 million tonnes of waste. This project piloted reusable packaging options for the express courier company JD Logistics in the city Haikou. So-called ‘Green Stream Boxes’ were reused for multiple deliveries and thus eliminated tonnes of packaging waste. Based in these experiences, guidelines were developed in order to expand this business model to the whole industry.
Promoting Environmentally Friendly Containers
“In China, the demand for packaging in the logistics industry is very high,” reports Wang Guixin. As director of the Qingdao Junshengmingshi Logistics Packaging Institute, she knows what she’s talking about. The transport of fruit and vegetables alone in the city of Qingdao accounts for more than 17 million boxes every year. These boxes, which are resource-heavy in their production and disposal, are used only once. Guixin explains: “If the packaging can be replaced by reusable options, the amount of single-use plastics could be significantly reduced at source. Containers can be circulated from the farms via the distribution centre to the retail stores.” It is this green and sustainable approach that was the focus of our pilot project. Our aim: to develop an environmentally-friendly circulation system for fruit and vegetable boxes in the Qingdao West Coast new area. This led to changes to traditional packaging at the source, thereby promoting the development of green packaging, and reducing packaging, pollution and recycling. In short: a business model for the future.
WHAT HAVE WE ACHIEVED IN 12 MONTHS?
1. Use and re-use again and again and again…
Together with our partners, we developed reusable containers to replace disposable packaging products. Designed to meet modern technical standards, these ‘turnover boxes’ are durable – for a long life span – and foldable – for efficient transport and storage. The base material of the box body meets the food-grade safety standard. By testing 60,000 reusable containers to bring fruit and vegetables from farms to retailers for 12 months, we have been able to reduce disposable packaging materials by 120 kg per box while additionally saving more than 500 liters of water annually. The improved design means that food gets less damaged during storage and transportation – the damage rate dropped from 35% to almost zero. Also, food does not need to be re-packed during transport, as is usually the case with disposable boxes. According to research data, re-packaging on the way to the retailer usually results in a 20% food loss. Using reusable containers brings this rate down to almost zero, and can save 300 kg of fruit and vegetables per year. In addition to the environmental benefits, there is a clear financial argument in favour of the new boxes: the daily cost of a reusable container is 1 Renminbi – compared to 600 Renminbi for a new single-use one.
Promoting Environmentally Friendly Containers
“In China, the demand for packaging in the logistics industry is very high,” reports Wang Guixin. As director of the Qingdao Junshengmingshi Logistics Packaging Institute, she knows what she’s talking about.
Less Plastics in Phuket
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Phuket had many visitors every year. And with rising tourist numbers, plastic waste steadily increased,” says Phuket’s Deputy Governor Amnuay Pinsuwan.
Wala Usik – Nothing is wasted
Plantable toothbrushes, reusable containers, apps that calculate your carbon footprint, compostable bioplastics made from rice hulls and other agricultural waste: these are just some of the ideas developed by local sustainable businesses and creative minds in the Philippines to put into practice the zero-waste and circular economy.
Promoting Innovative and Sustainable Packaging
Kim Castillo and her colleagues have been busy. At the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, they understand that billions of plastic items are ending up on the country’s streets and coastlines every year, and impacting fisheries and agriculture.
Single-Use Plastic Free Schools
Rusty the Turtle, Marley the Manta Ray and Steeb the Plankton are comic book characters who go on big adventures.
Less Plastic Packaging in Deliveries
China's express delivery business is the largest in the world and has become an indispensable part of residents’ daily lives. It has made shopping easier, but also produces a large amount of packaging. In 2020, express delivery services generated nearly 15 million tonnes of waste.
A Supermarket Alliance to Reduce Single-Use Plastic Bags
An average supermarket in Hanoi gives out more than 100,000 plastic bags every day. This number is rising, with dramatic consequences not only for the environment, but also for Vietnam’s waste management system.
Less Plastic Waste in Indonesian Markets
From fruit and vegetables to meat, fish and spices, traditional Indonesian markets offer everything the heart – and stomach – desires. For decades, Indonesians have bought their food and household items at traditional markets. But until recently, people rarely asked for a plastic bag when purchasing items.
Plastics make up 85% of beach litter;
single use items represent 61%
and fishing related items 20% of these plastic items.
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Take Pinto! Phuket's initiative to bring the traditional lunchbox back to (delivery) business
A tiffin carrier filled with rice and Thai-style lou mei often shows up in movie scenes when characters reminisce about their peaceful and simple childhoods. In today’s world, simplicity is only valued when it’s synonymous with speed. Food services and delivery are stripped down to provide meals as fast as possible. To find a way to connect the services with environmentally friendly solutions, “Rethinking Plastics” has been providing funding support a project proposal by the Phuket Environmental Foundation. As Phuket’s economy took a hard blow from the covid-19 crisis, food delivery services started to gain popularity. But so did the waste from these services. In response, the foundation launched a pilot activity called “Take PINTO” to reduce plastic waste from packaging with participating restaurants. (“Pinto” is a Thai word for tiffin carrier.)
We followed up on the project participants and the Phuketians’ views on plastic. These are a few points that we have learned:
Uánn-tsân: a symbol of sharing
Save the date, 27 September: Rethinking Plastics Regional Closing Event
Ready for the journey? Only together can we navigate towards a future free from plastic pollution. On 27 September 2022, Rethinking Plastics warmly invites interested participants to attend the hybrid regional project closing event and join us on a journey along solutions, lessons learnt and results to reduce and prevent marine plastic litter now and in future.