The tides are turning for plastic reduction. As plastic production increases year by year, liability risks for businesses and the negative impacts on the environment continue to snowball. A report published by UNEP found that plastics used in the consumer goods sector are associated with $75 billion in natural capital costs yearly.
Currently, the pressure is rising as regulators are cracking down, investors are identifying risks, and consumer preferences are shifting toward more sustainable products.
In response, CPG leaders are bracing themselves for rocky waters. Unfortunately, the roadmap for plastic reduction is uncertain due to precarious market forces. As external pressure increases, companies will have to identify which initiatives will help them maximize positive impact.
Emerging Market Forces
Plastic regulations are sweeping the world as EPR schemes and Plastic taxes enter the limelight. These legislative frameworks will likely become more strict as the world transitions to a circular economy. The goal of the tax is to price the damage caused by plastic pollution and incentive reduction, recyclability, and reuse schemes.
To protect the value of their investments, investors are waking up to the massive risk of plastic pollution. These risks include impending environmental legislation, market-based climate regulations, and the reputational risk of plastics’ traceability.
Consumers are witnessing the intensity of plastics entering nature and waking up to the fact that our current recycling system isn’t fit for purpose. A Harvard survey found that 65% of customers want to purchase from purpose-driven brands advocating sustainability.
Information is catalyzing market forces. As the plastic waste crisis continues to worsen, decision-makers are incentivized to establish a roadmap for plastic reduction.
Each market force plays a unique role in accelerating the shift away from single-use plastics. However, this transition will force the hands of many businesses.
Untapped Plastic Reduction Potiential
As there are a variety of market forces generating momentum for plastic reduction, there are various opportunities to seize the untapped potential for improvement.
Before taking action, a company must first understand the scale and composition of the problem they are facing. Then, by beginning with a holistic measurement and analysis of their plastic footprint, they can identify the optimal variables for plastic reduction.
To start, companies should identify areas where plastics can be reduced, how they can be optimized, and how to support innovations, legislation, and waste management systems.
Plastic reduction should identify areas where excess plastics can be immediately removed. Reduction can result from design principles, avoiding inessential packaging, or rethinking workplace waste. Next, plastic alternatives should be considered, but a complete life cycle analysis is crucial to avoid unintended consequences.
System optimizations take the form of circular economy integrations. These optimizations could be as simple as renting shipping pallets returned and recycled at the end of their lifespan. Or they could be associated with providing customers a takeback scheme where the packaging is cleaned and reused. Integrating circular solutions can take infinite forms and is simply up to a company’s ingenuity.
Finally, supporting innovations, legislation, and waste management systems is key to ensuring plastics’ sustainable management. Raising awareness and providing investment can help cement responsible businesses as industry leaders.
By engaging in plastic reduction, system optimization, investment, and advocacy, companies can demonstrate their commitment to environmental action to their stakeholders.