Retail’s plastic onion

garbage, tip, rubbishFor every disposable bag used by the public through the front doors of their favourite outlet, there is a copious volume of plastic being disposed of into skips out the back. Sure the larger brands are separating the plastics and cardboard that is then squirrelled away by overladen recycling trucks, comforted by the delusional convenience they have done their eco-friendly bit.

Plastic impacts the environment by polluting the habitat to the detriment of life. Cardboard, on the other hand, is not a substitute, for its carbon imprint is far higher. Paper bags and cardboard generate fifty times more water pollutants and seventy per cent more air pollutants during production than plastic bags do.

A proposed cutback of the single-use checkout bag is but a diversionary ploy of what is going on right under the consumer’s nose. The tip of a titanic iceberg of waste and the utter contempt for well-being in favour of profit. The placing of the onus on the end user just doesn’t wash and says a lot about where the industry is.

Do not be duped by the current decrease of packet size in what is just another token gesture of waste control. That is driven by the economics of space and availability. The more items that fit on a shelf the fewer hours required to refill it. What counts is the recyclable qualities of the product, what they wrap it in and the container in which they deliver it.

Everyone has a role to play in cutting down on waste.

Leadership needs to be held accountable. To set up and then embed credibility measures, in the guise of a key performance index and by promoting open and honest communication.

They must empower management to set the bar with relevant intent. To ensure they adopt a participative eco-culture in their field of sway.

The support offices are duty bound to involve the suppliers, packaging and transport partners. For this is the greatest area of devastation and opportunity. The manufacturer is at the beck and call of the retailer who is the voice of the consumer. All should make the time to visit the loading dock of a store to witness the extent of what is at hand. Next, summon the courage to step up, speak out and strive for change.

The store’s part is in minimising the waste and in decreasing consumption on-site; to recycle metal, plastic, cardboard and perhaps redistribute discarded merchandise to non-profit organisations. Also mentoring the team to embrace a workable compliance and take comfort in the fact that it does make a difference to their world, to their back pocket and the goodwill of all.

How many companies assign executive champions to drive conscious practice and carbon footprint initiatives?

The populace is waking up to the notion of sustainability. With, the realisation that their biggest influence is in how and where they spend their money. Underestimate this burgeoning phenomenon at your peril and risk the inevitable backlash. Start the transformation with a sense of urgency. Be assured the customer is asking questions and will shop with their conscience more and more. Even if it costs them a little extra.

Peel back the layers of the plastic onion to expose the organic goodness that lies beneath.

The planet is all we have, it is about life and up to this generation to right the wrongs. Retail is about people, for people, by the people. Educate yourself and others on what is contributing to the degradation of our wonderful planet.

Non-recyclable cardboard – take away boxes, plastic lined produce boxes, waxed cardboard, disposable cups, frozen food boxes.

Seven common plastics (Recyclable: Yes or No)

Polyethylene Terephthalate – soda bottles, jars, rope, tote bags. (Yes)

H-D Polyethylene – milk/juice containers, grocery/trash bags, bottles, toys. (Yes)

PVC – grocery bags, tote bags, shrink wrap, blister pack, meat packs. (Difficult)

L-D Polyethylene - cling wrap, grocery bags, frozen food bags (Difficult)

Polypropylene – diapers, food/takeaway containers, disposable cups and plates. (No)

Polystyrene – disposable cups, food boxes, cutlery, packaging. (No)

BPA products – polycarbonate, polyctide, acrylic, styrene, fiberglass, and nylon. (No)

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