If you are of a certain age you may recall taking your fizzy drink bottles back to the shop you purchased them in exchange for some cash. In fact this writer remembers using this to supplement his pocket money and kindly collecting his neighbours bottles to save them the trip.
This was also at the same time they set fire to large swathes of the countryside after the harvest, so we should acknowledge that things weren’t always better in the past.
Glass packaging was abandoned in favour of plastic around 30yrs ago as it had greater production efficiency, lower weight and lower costs. Using glass as a distribution mechanism had tied retailers into delivery systems over which they had little control.
Call it the Blue Planet effect, or just the penny finally dropping that waste has to go somewhere, but it does appear that a packaging tipping point has been reached.
After years of ‘look at this massive box, I bet what’s inside is amazing’, consumer tastes are shifting.
Whilst the large corporates are inevitably taking time to make a shift towards using sustainable packaging, there are a lot of innovations coming from crowdfunded start-ups.
Take ‘Final Straw’, a US based company looking for £10k on Kickstarter to replace single use plastic straws with a reusable metal one. They ended up with around £1.4m.
In the UK ‘Recycling Technologies’ who have developed a system that will chemically recycle plastic packaging raised around £3.7m partly through crowdfunding in just two weeks.
Ultimately it is consumers who will hold companies to account and businesses from all sectors of industry and being forced to act. Both retailers and manufacturers are having to plan for ‘plastic-free’ aisles and take responsibility for recycling their own packaging. Fancy that?, a company will have to take responsibility at an operational level for the waste they produce and pass on.
I imagine that will bring things into sharp focus pretty quickly.
The definition of ‘Tipping point’ is “the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change”
Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York have found that when just 10% of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society.
So when it comes to a rejection of excess packaging, the importance of sustainability and holding companies to account, I think we are almost there.