Plastic fantastic? Get real this Seaweek

3 March 2015

This week is Seaweek. We derive so much benefit from the ocean – food, recreation and spiritual fulfillment – and yet we are filling it with our junk. Read on to find out about inspirational businesses working on the frontline of plastic reduction.

New research from the journal Science estimates that of the 275 million metric tonnes of plastic waste generated in coastal countries around the world, an average of 8 million ends up in our ocean. 

Last year, a European study undertook a deep-water seafloor survey. It found litter accumulating in all of the 600 study sites, which ranged in depth from 35 metres to 4.5 kilometres. The most common type of litter was plastic, which accounted for 41 per cent of litter found. With a growing population, the amount of plastic in our ocean is predicted to increase.

The problem isn’t just that our plastic addiction is littering the seafloor. Plastic is broken down by light and saltwater, ending up in tiny pieces that can attract toxic substances such as industrial chemicals that get washed down drains and into the ocean. Fish and other creatures snack on these plastic pieces and, research suggests, they may absorb the toxins. Then those fish are eaten by other fish, and by us.

So why not use Seaweek (28 February to 8 March) to take a stand against plastic? Here are some ways that inspirational businesses are working at the frontline of plastic reduction.

Rethinking packaging:
Last year, ecostore became the world’s first manufacturer to switch from plastic bottles to Carbon Capture bottles made from sugarcane. Carbon Capture ‘plastics’ capture and store two kilograms of CO2 from the atmosphere for every kilogram produced. This compares with traditional plastic production which creates about two kilograms of CO2 per kilo of plastic.

Foodstuffs North Island announced last year it would roll out a new-and-improved seafood box to New World and PAK’nSAVE stores in the North Island. The move has seen expanded polystyrene (EPS), which is not recyclable in New Zealand, being replaced with boxes that have a corrugated middle section of the cardboard which are 100% recyclable for stores. By making the switch, Foodstuffs is slashing its plastic intake.

“To add some perspective the North Island business uses several thousand polybins every week across its PAK’nSAVE and New World brands. We estimate the business could avoid sending approximately 2,250 cubic metres of EPS to landfill every year,” says Merchandising General Manager, Ngan Kee.  “Which, if spread out, would cover eight and a half rugby pitches, a reduced environmental impact which we are really proud to be achieving.”

Buy non-plastic:

There are hundreds of non-plastic solutions available for New Zealand businesses.  Friendlypak sells food packaging made of starch, potato, corn-based PLA and sugar cane.  For wooden toys, litterless lunch solutions and natural, plastic-free baby products check out Munch Cooking. Innocent Packaging also provides fully compostable food packaging solutions, and works with organic waste recyclers We Compost to ensure its products are commercially composted. 

Encourage employees to BYO:
According to environmental science student James Murray, if you drink five coffees a week, you’re creating 14 kilos of plastic waste every year. If you use your own cup, you’ll produce half the carbon emissions, use half the energy and use about one-third of water consumption. Reward employees for being waste-savvy, or contact your local councils to see what kind of support they can offer businesses. And always take your own plate when you get takeaway sushi.