42 Food Giants Pledge to Ax Plastic

2018 gave us a lot of eco-friendly changes in the food industry: Pepsi debuted reusable bottles for flavored beverages, Dunkin Donuts ditched foam cups from their packaging, even McDonald’s followed suit with foam cups and plastic straws. I hate to say that this environmentalist trend among food giants has reached its peak with the good news I bring now, but it does feel like a culmination of sorts.

A total of 42 food companies in the UK — composed of retailers, supermarkets, manufacturers, and brands — have pledged to ax single-use plastics by 2025.

Together, the signatories represent roughly 80% of the plastics sold in UK supermarkets. The initiative . . . has set a series of goals to cut wasteful packaging over the course of the next seven years. For starters, the initiative will ensure that 100% of plastic packaging must either be recyclable, compostable, or reusable in order to make it onto supermarket shelves. Some supermarkets have gone even further and declared that plastic packaging will no longer be used on fruits and vegetables.

The signatories include UK brands like Asda, Nestle, Lidl, Coca-Cola, Aldi, PepsiCo, Unilever, Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, Sainsbury, and many others. Besides ensuring the elimination of single-use plastics, the pledge also covers recycling. The current recycling rate is 30%, and the participating food giants seek to bump it up to 70%.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who is backing the pact, said in a statement: “Our ambition to eliminate avoidable plastic waste will only be realized if government, businesses, and the public work together.”

In addition to bringing super chic eco-bags to the supermarket, well, I guess I just have to remember this pledge to feel less guilty when buying those apples.

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Daycares Ban Glitter To Prevent Microplastics Pollution

As oceans fill to the brim with discarded plastics, communities are doing what they can to manage the destructive material. While independent brand Eco Connect is finding ways to make plastic reusable, places like Kenya are simply banning the medium entirely. In the U.K., environmentalists are taking a less radical but highly effective step towards cleaner oceans. Daycares in southern England are officially banning glitter to prevent microplastics from contaminating water.

“Glitter is absolutely a microplastic and has the same potential to cause harm as any other microplastic…” [said research associate Alice Horton.]

Considering glitter is purely ornamental, there truly is no use for the material. Effective in only 19 Tops Day Nurseries, the ban won’t make a significant impact, but it sends a clear message.

“On a small scale, one nursery banning it is unlikely to have any environmental impact, but it’s a good environmental statement to make, like one person choosing not to buy bottled water to reduce plastic bottle waste. [It is] not going to change the world but [it] sets a target for others.”

Sometimes, change isn’t all about results — making a difference can arise from how one inspires another.

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U.K. To Tax Plastic Products To Reduce Pollution

To minimize ocean pollution, nations are campaigning against single-use plastics in the hopes of replacing them with more eco-friendly options. While Costa Rica is steadily approaching its goal of going plastic-free in 2021, Kenya has banned the material altogether. To further the cause, U.K. chancellor Philip Hammond is calling to consider plastic tax.

“The Treasury’s announcement is only a statement of intent, but it recognises the significance of the problem and the urgent need for a solution. There is a long way to go, but hopefully this is the beginning of the end for single-use plastic.” [said Greenpeace campaigner Tisha Brown.]

To stunt the growth of an annual 12 million tons of plastic waste, U.K. stores began pricing plastic bags at 5p. In just 6 months, the move reduced usage by 85%. Suddenly, the tax proposal makes a lot more sense.

“Any action to tackle single-use plastic is a good thing, but we must ensure any action is truly ambitious if we want to make the real difference needed to help save the planet.”

Plastic may be convenient, but the millions of marine animals killed each year will beg to differ. Plastic tax — two thumbs up from me!

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Lego To Debut First Plant-Based Toys

They say starting em’ young is the best way to get a point across — and you often can’t go wrong with a toy. Since first promoting sustainability through bioplastics, Lego is already onto something greater. By the end of the year, the trinket tycoon will launch a collection of plant-based bricks.

Production has started on the sustainable pieces, which include “botanical elements” like leaves, bushes, and trees. The new pieces are made from polyethylene, a soft and durable plastic, and Lego notes that they are “technically identical to those produced using conventional plastic.”

Lego’s $165 million investment in plastic alternatives will hopefully see a drop in the 4% annual consumption of petroleum. The masterminds behind the popular Millennium Falcon build-it is also teaming up with WWF to reduce carbon emissions.

“It is essential that companies in each industry find ways to responsibly source their product materials and help ensure a future where people, nature, and the economy thrive,” said Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at WWF in a statement.

For nearly 90 years, Lego has inspired us to build more than just fantasies, but sustainable realities.

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Trash Collecting Girl Becomes Cartoon Superhero

Oftentimes, for a piece of rubbish, landfills are an eternal resting place. Rarely do they see a better climax, save for those that become furniture or even vodka. Despite lack of efforts to recycle, some continue to hold the Earth near and dear to their hearts. One such individual is 12-year-old Nadia Sparkes, a.k.a. “Trash Girl”, Norwich’s newest cartoon hero.

The Hellesdon schoolgirl was so “shocked” by litter strewn near her home and school she began picking it up in her bicycle basket, leading to jibes and the seemingly cruel nickname.

Sparkes has since encouraged the public to pick up three pieces of litter a day, and hundreds have agreed. If you haven’t heard, kids, sustainability is all the rage — and bullying is so yesterday.

Creative Nation’s Alex Jeffery said… “We think she is a superhero for putting the planet first in the face of the bullies who chose to criticise, rather than help her and get involved.

“We also wanted to see if our image could inspire a nationwide cartoon, sent to schools to inspire more young people to do the same fantastic work.”

Never pick on the kid with a basket of empty cans. It could be their greatest weapon!

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McDonald’s To Ax Plastic Foam Cups

We’re three months into the year and McDonald’s is showing up every fast food chain on the planet. From its impromptu discovery of an anti-balding agent in its fries, Mickey D’s is up to something even bigger. To get with the times, the Supersize Me star is phasing out all foam products by the end of 2018.

It’s the first time the fast-food giant has openly committed to a deadline to completely stop using polystyrene drink containers, which are eco-unfriendly and nearly impossible to recycle. The containers for its large cold drinks represent a mere 2 percent of its packaging, which still comes out to millions of dollars and cups annually.

The restaurant overlord last made a large gesture towards sustainability 27 years ago. The company then replaced styrofoam “clamshells” with eco-friendly paper packaging. Still, it’s a much-needed push en route to a greener Earth.

McDonald’s is expected to announce a packaging and recycling initiative [soon], said Conrad MacKerron, a senior vice president of As You Sow. “We do appreciate what McDonald’s has done,” he said. “It’s taken a long time, but better late than never.”

I guess slow and steady wins the race!

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Fluorescent Dye Can Identify Ocean Microplastics

Vast and mysterious, the ocean harbors many secrets. The great blue is home to shipwrecks and unusual species, along with — most urgently — tons of waste. Regrettably, the number of pollution-detecting technologies, such as swimming robots, remain limited. However, a new dye identification technique may help uncover 99% of microplastics invisible to the naked eye.

“Using this method, a huge series of samples can be viewed and analysed very quickly, to obtain large amounts of data on the quantities of small microplastics in seawater or, effectively, in any environmental sample,” said University of Warwick researcher Gabriel Erni-Cassola.

The dye is fluorescent, and clings easily onto the smallest of plastic particles. Previous attempts to assess microplastics involved manually retrieving samples (and presumably tired eyes coupled with a lot of frustration). The new method will allow more thorough ocean clean-ups and likely save a lot of marine animals.

“It is important to understand how plastic waste behaves in the environment to correctly assess future policies,” said Dr. Christie-Oleza.

Plucking thousands of discarded bottles may do the trick — but not if stealthy microplastics can get away.

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Biodegradable Six-Pack Beer Holders Are A New Fad

At present, contemporary breweries have moved out of beer houses and into labs. To make up for scant resources, many sustainable groups are crafting tasty drinks from bread and other waste. While revamping recipes is a success in itself, we can’t yet say the same for packaging. Six-pack holders are often 100% plastic, but that isn’t the case for Mexican Startup E6PR. Eco Six Pack Rings’ holders are made with compostable materials that are completely biodegradable.

“With the help of E6PR, we would like to inspire the entire beer industry to follow our lead… Our goal is to transition all of the packaging in our facility to this six-pack ring alternative that goes beyond recycling and strives to achieve zero waste.” [said Chris Gove of SaltWater Brewery.]

The rings dissolve in water and are safe for marine animals to ingest. E6PR hopes to produce the holders for all types of cans and bottles along with their standard size.

“If most craft brewers and big beer companies implement this technology, we will potentially be saving hundreds of thousands of marine lives as a result,” said Francisco García, the engineer behind the project

It’s quite the genius party trick, and while it won’t harm any animals, we do hope you reach for a rubbish bin before making the ocean yours.

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California To Impose Straw Rule At Restaurants

These days, restaurants are not only serving up delicious new meals, but becoming mindful of their impact on the environment. Chains such as TGI’s are serving vegan burgers to reduce meat consumption, while bay-area cafes are returning oyster shells into oceans. Each bit of effort is unique, while every vision remains the same — to go green. Lavish with five-star establishments, California is taking its eco-consciousness even further against plastic straws. A new law requires sit-down restaurants to dispense straws only if specifically requested.

“Really, what’s at stake here is a few moments of convenience creating a years-long environmental threat,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay.

The bill follows California’s ban on single-use plastics and will hopefully transition into a total ban. Let’s be real. Paper straws are tons better than their plastic counterparts, but not when they thaw into a soggy mess.

“We are aware of the problem we’ve created with plastic and wanted to get away from it as much as possible,” said [Daniel] Parks, the beverage manager at Pagan Idol.

While every activist would prefer a complete wipe-out, it may take others some time to realize straws really aren’t all that.

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EU Aims For All Reusable Plastic Packaging By 2030

Since the UN drafted its resolution to allay plastic waste, various superpowers have been succeeding its proposal. Among the campaigners is the European Union, which hopes to produce materials that are fully recyclable by 2030.

“If we don’t do anything about this, 50 years down the road we will have more plastic than fish in the oceans … we have all the seen the images, whether you watch [the BBC’s] Blue Planet, whether you watch the beaches in Asian countries after storms.” [said Dutch diplomat Frans Timmermans.]

Bearing in mind that plastics take 500 years to break down, making them entirely reusable is a smart move. To kick off, the EU is looking to tax single-use plastics, aiming to recycle 55% of materials within 12 years. Versatile, recyclable product designs will help keep oceans comparatively unsoiled.

“More and more it is becoming a health problem because it is degrading, going to little chips, fish are eating it and it is coming back to our dinner table,” said European Commission vice president Jyrki Katainen.

As Europe produces over 25 million tons of plastic waste a year, any start is a good start. The Blue Planet waits for no one.

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