Anyone who has taken a budget airline flight will know the challenges of trying to find space for their hand baggage on the plane. They will also probably be familiar with the oft-repeated request by the cabin crew for passengers only to stow larger bags in the overhead lockers and to place coats and smaller items under the seat in front of them.
And for every individual who abides by this rule, there are many more who simply ignore it and put everything in the lockers in order to protect their – admittedly very limited – seat space.
That’s the problem with collective responsibility. There are too many people who, while applauding the principle, expect others to make the sacrifice on their behalf.
It’s a similar situation with the current furore over plastic packaging waste. We read with annoyance about the amount of rubbish washed up on our beaches and then carelessly discard the free newspaper on the train; we discuss the distressing images from The Blue Planet during a work break before stubbing out a cigarette on the ground, or throwing our chewing gum or apple core into the gutter.
The issue is littering
As anti-litter campaigns constantly remind us – litter breeds litter. Just one item of litter, whatever it may be, makes a place look uncared for and encourages others to do the same. It’s a man-made problem – take away plastic packaging and there will still be something to litter in its place.
What’s more, plastic packaging wasn’t specifically invented to create a waste problem but to meet the demands of our modern way of living. We want the convenience of ready-to-cook and microwavable foods; we want to be able to consume food and drink on the move; we expect fresh food to remain fresh until we are ready to use it. Packaging – and plastics packaging in particular – makes all this and more possible.
That’s not to say that plastic packaging manufacturers have absolved themselves of any responsibility; far from it. Sustainability is at the forefront of packaging design these days, with packs that incorporate reduced amounts of virgin raw materials to help save our natural resources, and which are fully recyclable. Nor should we forget plastic packaging’s vital role in helping to minimise food waste, in itself a significant environmental challenge. Plastics’ light weight also helps to reduce carbon emissions (another problem constantly in the headlines) during its transportation to the retailers and onward to our homes.
Efficient, cost-effective and sustainable
Certainly, sustainability was high on the agenda when we created WaveGrip. We designed it to meet the requirement for consumers to be able to easily take home a number of their favourite canned drinks; but we made sure we used the minimum amount of raw material and energy to achieve this, while still creating a carrier that is strong and robust enough to undertake the role reliably and consistently and that is fully recyclable.
And let’s not forget that a recycled WaveGrip goes into many useful second-life applications, such as wood replacement benches and fences that will provide benefits for generations to come. It also makes strong and sturdy refuse sacks – somewhere to put our waste and recyclables as we all seek to play a part in creating a cleaner planet and a more sustainable future.
So, the next time you hear someone demonising plastic, perhaps it’s time to point to our collective challenge in reducing the real issue – not the economy stupid – but littering. Dealing effectively with our waste, and recycling plastic, glass, cans and other packaging is how we can all contribute to a more sustainable future. And if this new approach to acting responsibly also frees up some space in the overhead lockers, that’s an added bonus!