Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Raising awareness about single-use plastics in supply chains

The topic of removing single-use plastic from our everyday lives is a heavily discussed topic within many governments and organisations. Recent activity has been initiated through major media exposure of the ongoing damage plastic is currently causing to our planet. With grocery stores now introducing ‘plastic free’ aisles and charging for plastic carrier bags, worldwide organisations such as McDonalds introducing paper straws, and global campaigns surrounding plastic waste such as Sky Ocean Rescue there is no burying your head in the sand regarding the magnitude of the problems we face today as a global community.

The National Geographic (2018) states:

“Single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill or are recycled. A full 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.”

One significantly underestimated source of plastic waste, which is less glamorous and gathers less media attention than the supermarket stalls, is that of supply chains. Logistics and supply chains often get missed out from all the media attention as they are not as exciting or appealing as other topics of focus and perhaps less obvious in our everyday lives. However they are still a major source of plastic waste contributing every day to the issue, in particular the use of plastic pallet wrap.

Apart from pressure coming from consumers and the media, there is very little pushing companies to make a drastic change to their habits. It takes roughly a football sized amount of plastic pallet wrap to secure a normal sized pallet, and once used this plastic is then discarded. Now scale this up and imagine how many plastic wrapped pallets there are in the World’s warehouses, and how much plastic is discarded, and you begin to see how much waste supply chains will contribute every year.

Research from the Independent in 2018 claims that 8,000,000 tonnes of plastic waste enters our oceans each year. Considering that there is already an estimated 150,000,000+ tonnes floating around our oceans we are on the tipping point of a global catastrophe. The long lasting effects of this are many… and they are scary. Plastic in the ocean is believed to kill millions of marine animals every year (National Geographic, 2018), with marine inhabitants of all shapes and sizes, from zooplankton to whales, now eating microplastics within their water. These undetectable microplastics then enter the food chain where they will end up working their way towards the top, towards you.

Now there are a few companies looking to make a difference and drive change from board level, applying pressure on supply chain leaders and managers to change their ways and influence their teams. Sky and Unipart Logistics recently teamed up with Loadhog to eliminate over 2 million metres of single-use plastic pallet wrap from the Sky UK supply chain. Direction from Sky resulted in Unipart using Loadhog’s innovative pallet lid to secure pallets without the need to use plastic pallet wrap. Sky and Unipart were able to not only eliminate 100% of single use plastic from their pallets, but they also saved operational process time and costs as well.

It takes the drive and vision of business leaders to incite a change, and not just in workplace processes, but also workplace culture in order to combat this impending global disaster. It is not only our habits at home that will affect our planet’s outcome, but also our habits in the workplace. There are many returnable packaging solutions available; metal, wood and plastic, which can help remedy the issues highlighted and offer a range of additional benefits too, but ultimately the user must be open to change in order to solve the problem we all face.

Claire James
Claire James
Claire is an accounts manager at Fire Digital UK, an online publishing and content marketing company based in the North West.

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