If non-profit organisation WRAP was looking to ease the concerns of consumers with its UK ‘Plastic Pact’, its announcement left a lot to be desired.
Granted, it is hard to criticise the organisation’s intentions or ambitions. It has set plenty of commendable targets: 100% recyclable plastic and the elimination of single-use packaging among others, all within an achievable seven-year window. The backing of over 40 industry heavyweights also lends considerable credence to the initiative and dramatically boosts its chances of success.
But for all the talk of reducing waste and plastic pollution, there was very little substance.
Many members of the pact, which includes major food and drinks companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle and Danone, as well as all the major UK supermarkets, have already outlined individual proposals of their own. To see them come together in unity to tackle one of the biggest environmental crises of modern times is indeed very encouraging, but you would expect news of such a historic collaboration to offer up something a bit more insightful.
Promising better sustainability is just the first step. What consumers need next is to know how these targets will be met and what role they play in achieving them. The pact’s announcement was sorely lacking in this regard.
Work will, of course, be ongoing behind the scenes. It has been evident for some time now that these pledges are not being made simply to appease the crowd; footage from the likes of Blue Planet on the BBC has well and truly kicked companies into action, and now the industry is turning to specialist organisations for support.
However, the anti-plastic movement in the UK has burst into life so rapidly that it has spawned a relentless consumer demand for change. The speed at which the issue has developed is staggering, and companies have to respond just as fast.
The more time passes between the pact’s launch and any further signs of progress, the greater the disconnection between consumer and supplier becomes. Companies will eventually divulge the steps they are taking at some point, but details must be given quickly if the pact is to maintain its credibility.
The key theme among most companies is a widespread acceptance of responsibility. The big market players have all admitted to playing a role in the ocean pollution crisis. Whilst consumers are hardly blameless in their approach to recycling either, there has been an overriding sense of guilt coming directly from the industry. But in this case, saying ‘sorry’ and promising to do better doesn’t quite cut it.
Consumer trust will not be helped by the lack of enforcement on the matter either. The voluntary nature of the agreement suggests companies are in it to prevent a plastic tax as well as plastic waste.
Whatever their intentions, there is little doubt that the pact is a step in the right direction. If businesses are as effective at recycling plastic bottles as they are their own promises, the future for packaging will be very bright indeed.
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