A Plastic Planet has Ten Core Beliefs that guide our decisions and help us prioritise where we can make change happen faster.
THE PLASTIC CRISIS IS A GIFT
The plastic crisis is the result of mankind inventing an extraordinary material and then misusing it, BUT, it is also so visible, so devastating and so guilt-inducing, that it is also a gift. Because we know we have to fix it. And by weaning ourselves from this toxic indestructible material, we will not only fix the plastic crisis, but we will also fix the systems that it creates. Plastic is the tap on the shoulder from Nature that we cannot deny or ignore. The solutions for this crisis will go far beyond the material itself, putting us on a much better path.
PLASTIC IS CLIMATE CRISIS IN SOLID FORM
If the plastics industry were a country, it would be the 5th biggest emitter of green-house gases. Plastic is responsible for GHG emissions from the minute it is extracted as fossil fuel to the fact it never has an end of life – unless burned. And we know where burning fossil fuels has got us today. It is also is the enabler of huge rises in consumption levels that drove the build of coal fired production in China and beyond, making more and more stuff to sell to the West who just couldn’t get enough (of something they don’t actually need) (see Belief 3).
PLASTIC BROKE THE SYSTEM
When natural resources were valued and finite, we had a system. We took those resources, made things with them. Those things were valued more if they were built to last, if they could be repaired, shared or easily reused. The introduction of this new incredible material, plastic, broke that system and instead, taught us all to take, make, use once or twice and then throw in a trash bin. And this new system changed how we manufacture and fuelled an extraordinary rise to our current giddy levels of hyper-consumption. Without plastic, this would not be possible.
NO BLAME, NO GUILT
We are all plastic addicts. We have all created this plastic crisis together. This is not a time for finger pointing. We have sleepwalked into this self-made nightmare and we now need to fast-track out of it. Together. We call for collaboration between all Governments, industry and the public. Let us not just consider competitive advantage but open source all new solutions so we can work together to accelerate the pace of essential change. However, to avoid change, now we know what we know is no longer forgivable.
PLASTIC RECYCLING ISN’T WORKING
In 2020 only 9% of plastic was recycled in the UK; in the USA it was less than 6%. We can no longer hide behind the myth that we can recycle our way out of this crisis. Over half the plastic waste from many relatively rich countries is exported, often to developing countries who do not have the infrastructure to cope with it. We are sending our plastic trash to some of the poorest people in the world in the name of ‘recycling’. This is ‘waste imperialism’ and we call on governments to ban it.
THERE SHOULD BE NO SUCH THING AS WASTE
True circularity for materials is not about recycling. It’s a total rethink on how we go from our current model of take, make and waste to a new model of take, make and never throw away. True circular products do not have any waste; everything is captured and reused. We believe in the future of ‘refill, prefill and reuse’ as a major part of the solution to our waste crisis. Humans are the only living species on the planet who create waste. 6.5 billion tonnes of it. Every single year.
WE NEED TO SAVE OUR SOIL
Without soil there is no life. But the top 5 inches of precious dirt, teeming with life, are in danger. Microplastics are infecting our soil through waterways and rain. Research tells us we now find up to 23x as much plastic in our soil as in our ocean. Predictions for 2050 indicate there will be insufficient nutrients in our topsoil to grow crops in many parts of the world. We need urgent investment in regenerative, toxin free nutrients for our soil – the opposite of our current depletive, extractive practices.
LEGISLATION AND TAXATION IS ESSENTIAL
We need our governments to step up and show leadership. We live in a time of declared climate emergency and yet our global media still focus on old growth targets and politics. Our governments are in thrall to the fossil fuel lobbyists, dragging their heels on all possible legislation and taxation. Industry needs certainty before they will invest in innovation. Without leadership from our governments and the UN, we continue to tread water when urgent transition is needed.
PRO-BUSINESS FOR SCALABLE, GLOBAL SOLUTIONS
Often niche new brands lead the way but to have the essential urgent impact, we need the biggest global businesses to act faster. We believe in a new kind of activism that ignites business from within vs attacking them from the outside. As entrepreneurs ourselves, we believe in the power of business to change the world. That is why we work with some of the biggest players like Unilever and Kraft Heinz to help them change faster, keeping all on task and championing those businesses who are doing the right thing. Change is difficult, inconvenient and sometimes costly as we pay it forward to benefit later. But it is absolutely essential and A Plastic Planet exists to accelerate the pace of change at all levels.
WE MUST TAKE LESS FROM NATURE
On July 28th 2022, we hit Earth Overshoot Day. This represents the day that we have taken our annual allocation of natural resources. So for the next 5 months, we simply take resources we are not entitled to. We take the resources from our children’s future, use them up today and call it ‘growth’ or GDP. Businesses of the future will ask themselves this question – does my business/brand/product push back Earth Overshoot Day. If the answer is yes, they are guaranteed success.
Originally published in 2023