The tide is turning. There’s an increasing groundswell of people saying that enough is enough, and that we have to do more to protect our planet.
The UK is producing millions of tonnes of waste every year, and most of it is unrecyclable.
But finally, we’re seeing a massive pushback against single-use plastic and unnecessary packaging on the goods we buy and use every day, the public mood galvanised after watching the shocking scenes on Blue Planet II of plastic choking ocean wildlife. As a passionate supporter of Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace, the scenes left me feeling physically sick.
At the end of last month, packaging protestors staged a “plastic attack” at a Tesco store in Bath, ripping off all excessive packaging on their shopping and leaving heaps at the tills. The government has also just announced plans to introduce a deposit scheme for the return of plastic, glass and metal drinks containers.
At present just 43% of the 13bn plastic bottles sold each year in the UK are recycled, and 700,000 are discarded on streets, into the countryside or our waterways every day. It’s not clear when the scheme will kick in across Britain, but it’s a start at least.
Aldi meanwhile has become the latest leading supermarket to unveil wide-ranging new plans to crack down on plastic waste, pledging to ensure all the packaging for its own-brand products is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022.
So how do we know that it’s young people help fuel this groundswell to try and change the world for the better?
The younger generation, whether that’s millennials or Generation Z, have grown up with greater awareness about sustainability and social responsibility, than their older peers. After all, they were born with the internet at their fingertips.
As a result, they are more actively engaged than any other generation – they are passionate about issues such as the environment, and put their money where their mouths are.
When it comes to buying something, whether goods or a service, they will very consciously choose products or companies that are seen to do good or at the minimum choose the “least harmful” alternative when it comes to ethics and sustainability. They’re impacting purchasing decisions at an unprecedented level – and they don’t want excess packaging, un-recyclable materials or single-use plastics.
It’s why McDonald’s have announced that they will be phasing out plastic straws in all of their UK restaurants, in a bid to stop the younger generations voting with their feet and getting their fast food fixes elsewhere.
As well as who they are willing to buy from, millennials want to work at ethical businesses committed to sustainability and by 2025, they will make up 75% of the global workforce. They care about the impact that the companies they work for have on the world, and three quarters check out businesses social and environmental credentials before committing to them.
It’s only a matter of time before they say enough is enough with the amount of pointless packaging we get delivered to our doors every time we shop at online retailers such as Amazon.
Everyone knows that excess packaging is bad for the environment and our landfill sites are full to bursting – yet time and again, you order something small online and it turns up in a box that will barely fit through your front door, let alone your letterbox.
Check out the hashtag pointless packaging for more infuriating and irresponsible examples. If companies don’t change their ways and follow in the more environmentally-friendly footsteps of the likes of Aldi and McDonalds, they’re going to get hit in the pockets sometime soon and might even struggle to attract a workforce.
Because, unlike Baby Boomers and Generation-X cohorts, millennials are more interested in causes than money. In 2016, 76% of millennials said they’d rather take a pay cut than work for a company with unethical business practices.
If these companies don’t take their responsibility for the environment seriously and cut back on pointless packaging, millennials and Gen Z will simply take their money elsewhere to someone who can deliver more sustainably. And everyone knows, boycotts are bad for business.
The young generation are driving change in all areas of society from demanding we do more to save the environment and combat plastic pollution, unnecessary waste that’s bad for the environment and climate change, asking more of government policy to challenging the way businesses operate, from the products they sell to the services they deliver and more. They want a different world and they want it now.
It’s about time we were all more like millennials and insist that companies ditch the pointless packaging and plastic, for the sake of the planet.