Everyone must take responsibility for their role in climate change and social issues, yet corporations have the most significant environmental impact, meaning they contribute the most greenhouse gas emissions. Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental issues at present. The oceans are swimming in plastic due to poor waste management, lack of recycling capabilities, not to mention market structures, and selective responsibility. The build-up of synthetic polymers in the environment to the point where they create problems is evident in the developed world, especially in countries with a low recycling rate. 

A developed country, New Zealand, struggles with plastic waste, representing a significant proportion of the debris collected on its beaches (i.e., food wrappers and plastic bags). To support the move towards a circular economy, New Zealand is phasing out PVC food trays and containers, EPS food and drink packaging, plastic-stemmed cotton buds, plastic plates/bowls/cutlery, and plastic produce bags. Stringent requirements have been put in place to protect communities and the environment from the planet’s growing plastic waste, but the problem is far from being solved. Companies are now fighting plastic pollution, creating a reputation for being green and clean. 

The best thing you can do is keep plastic out of the waste stream. There are several ways you can have a big impact, such as: 

Move Away from Unnecessary Single-Use Plastics

As the name clearly suggests, single-use plastic is a type of plastic that’s used once, usually for a short period of time, before being thrown away. Examples include but aren’t limited to cutlery, straws, carrier bags, and drink stirrers. According to the experts at Greenpeace, disposable plastic items aren’t biodegradable, so they just break down into smaller particles that aren’t visible to the naked eye, contaminating the environment. Tiny pieces of plastic have been found in tap and bottled water, beer, salt, honey, oysters, and even inside us. Surprising or not, blood samples have been found to contain polyethylene, from which carrier bags are made.  

Your business should do its best to phase out unnecessary single-use plastics. List everyday items on a spreadsheet where they can be identified and evaluated against your business’ current stance; this way, you’ll get a grasp of the situation. Consumers shouldn’t hold the burden of decreasing the use of single-use plastics, so design products with circularity in mind and end-of-life considerations. In other words, production should be sustainable, providing environmental, social, and economic benefits while protecting public health. Single-use plastic products are used in all areas of business, not just operations, and simple changes can make a world of difference. For instance, you can use refillables instead of disposable pens. 

Ask Your Suppliers to Use Sustainable Alternatives

It’s challenging to ascertain whether a supplier is implementing the type of environmental practices you’d like to see in your supply chain. Nevertheless, it helps to ask the following questions: 

  • What raw materials do you use? 
  • What local environmental regulations are you required to comply with? 
  • Do you actively monitor your use of energy, water, and chemicals?
  • How do you manage your waste?
  • Do you use any recycled or recyclable materials? 
  • How can we, as business partners, help you bring about change? 

You should be connected to model companies that are proactively working towards encouraging sustainability. A sustainable supply chain releases as few greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere as possible, so it’s a powerful tool for reducing your carbon footprint. 

Transition To Easily Recyclable Plastics 

Plastic can be a sustainable material; it’s just that we need a system reset. Until that happens, it’s a good idea to transition to easily recyclable plastics, such as PET, HDPE, and PP. Plastic items are composed of different polymers, which explains why it’s not possible to recycle different plastics together – they melt at different temperatures. Changing the bigger picture requires action on several fronts, but the results have benefits for the economy at large. In New Zealand, sorting occurs with the help of high-tech machines at large-scale recycling facilities. Plastic recycling leads to downcycling, meaning that the end products have less stringent technical and aesthetic qualities. 

Baling your plastic waste reduces the number of unusable materials you’re sending to the landfills, and the number of trucks on the road, both of which positively impact the environment. You can find machines used for baling and compacting in NZ that guarantee superior performance. Attention must be paid to the fact that balers and compactors process different materials. If you have recyclable materials, you’ll need a baler, yet if you’re struggling with large volumes of waste, you need a compactor. By compacting your waste, you can reduce the number of bins and collections by roughly 80%, therefore, enhancing internal logistics and the productivity of your organization. 

Get Your Entire Team Working Together

Finally, yet importantly, extra importance should be given to education. Launch a program to make sure the members of your team understand how plastic waste should be disposed of, what is and what’s not easily recyclable, and how they can reduce the use of single-use plastic products. Undoubtedly, incentives are a good way to get everyone engaged in sustainability. You can offer company-wide incentives to reward employees when they exceed the minimum acceptable performance standards. The best thing to do is set traceable goals for the company (or division), and if people exceed those goals, they receive monetary and non-monetary benefits. 

Wrapping It Up 

Successful corporate social responsibility models have to keep abreast of environmental and social policies. Those who have the most power to bring about change should do it in an ethical way. You have a responsibility that extends beyond meeting the wants and needs of customers, so consider your needs without compromising the well-being of future generations. If we don’t cut down on plastic waste, pollution will alter habitats and natural processes, reducing the ecosystem’s ability to adapt to climate change, which directly impacts the lives of millions of people. So, what’s your business doing to turn off the plastic tap?