How is tech responding to the plastics crisis?

8 Aug 2019 01:01 PM

Write up of a conference we held a on how tech approaches plastics.

Plastic and plastic waste is a front page issue and no other environmental issue has captured the public imagination like it. Governments are taking action and companies face intense pressure to look at how to reduce their plastic consumption. The tech sector is no different and this conference looked at what firms were doing to address the plastics crisis, how innovation can keep plastic in use for longer and replacements. 

full write up is here and key themes and learnings are summarised below.

  • Business needs to: take heed of the need to change; make efforts to remove the most obvious single use plastics; look at more sustainable product design, and; measure and communicate progress against targets.
  • The ‘Blue Planet effect’ has resulted in increased customer, stakeholder and investor awareness and concern on plastic consumption. It makes business sense to act now.
  • Plastics are not inherently bad. Overuse, poor collections and lack of recycling infrastructure are why plastics are problematic.
  • UK and EU regulations on plastics have increased significantly and are likely to get more stringent and wide-ranging. Initially the focus has been on single use, but other plastics will face scrutiny. E-waste and concern over the material use in electronics will become a growing trend.
  • Presenters and speakers said ‘system’ and ‘ecosystem level’ changes are needed to overhaul how we approach plastics, looking at manufacture, use and disposal to recovery and reuse.
  • For businesses innovating in new materials, seeking finance, regulations, and overcoming protectionism from incumbents are barriers.
  • Gamification and rewards engage consumers, employees and partners in ways they are used to now and help to clarify the ‘why’ in changing their attitude to plastic.

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