The last few months have seen some interesting campaigns kick off advocating a future of sustainability. In these times of change these policies are important to help the UK pave the way towards being a leader in environmental issues post-Brexit.
UK businesses all have a role to play in encouraging their employees to adopt green policies. For example, having access to convenient and simple recycling services, as well as campaigns that educate employees on the fact they can recycle their coffee cup or water bottle means there's no excuse for not creating a sustainable culture.
Here are a few campaigns that are affecting our environment today. If we take small steps as individuals and implement them within our organisations we can create significant impact:
1. Saying No to Litter on our Streets
April saw the first Litter Strategy for England released by the Government, a strategy that will be in place now until 2020. It stresses concerns about litter, revealing that the cost to local government to clean the streets was £778m in 2015/16. A significant portion was avoidable so the strategy looks to apply best practice in education, enforcement and infrastructure to reduce this figure. The Great British Spring Clean, (that took place in March 2017) is an excellent example of how to rally the masses to reduce expenditure on litter clear up. Following the success of Clean for the Queen Campaign in 2016 the campaign looked to increase their attendance figures from 250,000 to 500,000 UK residents asking them to get outdoors, get active and help clear up the rubbish around their communities. Corporations can get involved by asking their employees to take responsibility for cleaning up the streets in their area.
2. Paper Cup Recovery
Despite being recyclable, 7million coffee cups are deposited a day in UK bins. That's 5,000 each minute and 2.5b a year. The repercussions are huge - the majority end up in landfill where they release harmful greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change. Campaigns are trying to tackle this by initiating paper cup recovery systems. We're a founding member of the Paper Cup Recovery and Recycling Group (PCRRG) which has gained strong momentum in recent months. It exists to enhance collection and recycling opportunities for paper cups and support businesses that transform these items into a valuable resource.
3. Refillable to work with Recyclable
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) first launched its #oneless campaign in 2016 in collaboration with Nine Marines to rid Londoners of single use plastic water bottles by 2021. In the UK we get through 13 billion plastic bottles each year - over 200 per person and experts estimate that between 5.5 and 14.6million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year. This is happening because municipal recycling bins on the streets and in parks are low in number, inconsistent in design and there's confusion about what can go into them. The UK has the technology to separate plastic easily in mixed recycling, so with better recycling services and education through campaigns like this this issue could be solved. The call to action is to make a personal commitment to stop using single-use plastic water bottles, replacing these with a refillable bottle but when people have no option but to get rid of waste they need to recycle.
4. Pressure to change packaging design
The Prince of Wales launched a campaign just last week to encourage companies to use plastic packaging that can be recycled. The New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize is a £1.5million prize backed by the conservation charity the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Currently only 14 per cent of plastic packaging is recycled, but the remainder, worth £60-90 billion worldwide, is lost as waste. Even though the technology and materials are available to recycle plastics products designers are using the notion of customer's preferences as an excuse to design lazy environmentally irresponsible products. Shockingly, lots of household brands including Pringles and Lucozade, as well black trays used by the food industry, are not recyclable so brands need to rethink their packaging strategy.
Ultimately, only when we all have access to recycling services that are simple, for example with daily collections at convenient times, will green behaviour be encouraged. However, these policies go some of the way to fostering a culture of sustainability across businesses. By changing mindsets and acting on these campaigns coupled with continual innovation that pushes the boundaries and makes these policies even more effective, the UK will be a greener place.