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The plastic conversation is fantastic, but...

01 May 2019

Plastics are rarely out of the headlines these days. I've talked about it here a number of times but it would be remiss of me not to bring it up again considering how much media coverage it has received recently.

In February, Glastonbury announced that the festival is banning single-use plastic, meaning revellers will have to provide their own reusable bottles in order to make use of the water taps.

In April it was reported that awareness-raising initiatives including the BBC's Blue Planet II and Netflix's Our Planet have led to a whopping 53% drop in single-use plastic in 12 months!

Then Guinness announced that it will stop using plastic in beer multipacks, switching instead to 100% recyclable and biodegradable cardboard. And Tesco has launched a trial to remove some plastic wrapped fruit and vegetable products from its stores.

The Cheeky Panda, which produces ultra-sustainable 100% bamboo tissue products, doesn't use single-use plastic in any of its product packaging but has gone even further by replacing the recyclable plastic packaging on its toilet rolls and facial tissues with 100% recyclable cardboard. It also plans for packaging across its whole range to be plastic-free by the end of this year.

While co-founder and director Chris Forbes believes there is a demand to reduce the use of all plastics in the B2B cleaning and facilities management market as well as in the consumer market, the main focus at the recent Facilities Event (9-11 April at the NEC, Birmingham) was on single-use plastics. 

A seminar by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA) into how professionals within the built environment can play their part in reducing single-use plastic proved to be one of the most popular presentations in the three-day programme. OCS head of cleaning Yvonne Taylor also spoke about how the group is reducing its reliance on single-use plastics in cleaning and catering operations.

Of course, single-use plastics are only one small part of a much bigger problem. And while it's fantastic that it has really captured the public and businesses' imagination, there is a lot more we can be doing to protect the environment and to help ensure the survival of our species. 

For example, The Cheeky Panda's tissue products are made from bamboo, the world’s fastest growing plant, as an alternative to trees, which helps to prevent deforestation. Bamboo also absorbs 35% more carbon and produces 30% more oxygen than trees. 

People may be latching onto products due to plastic-related issues rather than the raison d'etre of the product itself, but there is hope that it will snowball. As Forbes says: "Talking about plastic leads to a wider conversation."