2021 here we come! We’re all excited to put this rollercoaster of a year that was 2020 behind us, and move on to the *hopefully* promising future to be held in 2021. With vaccines in distribution for COVID, 2021 is already looking better than 2020. On top of planning for getting COVID under control, there are some other problems to be considered and handled in 2021. One of the biggest being plastic pollution and sustainable business practices. Many sustainability goals and plastic pollution movements were put on hold this year to deal with the coronavirus, and plastic usage and pollution spiked dramatically. Masks, gloves, and other single-use products that were necessary to fight this pandemic are now strewn about our natural world as litter and pollution. We know that single-use products are an important part of our society, and we’re here to change the narrative: single-usage isn’t the problem, the material is.
Sustainability goals are a key part of modern business. Consumers look to purchase from organizations that are doing their part to protect and give back to our planet. As we look forward into 2021, we want to provide a resource to help businesses set sustainability goals that will not only appeal to customers, but will also help to solve the truly pressing environmental issues that our planet is facing. At UrthPact, we see plastic pollution as one of the biggest issues threatening our planet, especially with the spike in usage brought on by COVID. It’s all of our responsibility to do our parts to solve the plastic pollution problem, and we’re here to provide some great goals for the new year to help you reduce your plastic usage and waste.
One of the most common and simplest sustainability goals is to eliminate as much single-use plastic and packaging from your business as possible in a certain timeframe. We recognize that achieving these goals won’t happen overnight. However, there are lots of plastic products that we throw away that can easily be replaced by a reusable alternative. For example, instead of having a vending machine with plastic water bottles, provide your employees with reusable bottles and then have a bottle refill station instead. You’ll save money in the long run on disposable bottles and recycling efforts, as well as keep a lot of plastic out of the environment. In the restaurant industry, reusables are great for take-out containers, and they can create a loyal customer base as well.
Now what about the single-use products that it doesn’t make sense to make reusable, like straws? We realize that there are certain products that make sense as disposable and single-use. However, we started making those types of products out of a material (plastic) designed to last for hundreds of years, just because it was easy and cheap. Whenever you do have to utilize a disposable product, try to find a compostable option to provide to your customers. Many home compostable bioplastics can be disposed of with general waste to landfills, where they will break down anaerobically, or can head straight to a composter alongside normal food waste compostables. These materials will continue to become more commercialized in coming years, as bans on single-use plastic product lines become more common worldwide.
Providing compostable alternatives not only helps the end-of-life solution for single-use products, but it contributes to benefits at the beginning of life as well. Compostable bioplastics are made from plant and natural canola bases, and the material production process is much more planet healthy than that of traditional, petroleum-based plastics. So you not only help to conserve resources, but actually remove harmful greenhouse gases from the atmosphere when you purchase and utilize compostable bioplastic disposables.
Another great alternative to traditional petroleum-based plastic disposables is utilizing a recycled-content alternative whenever possible. Now, this can be pre-consumer recycled-content (ie, excess material from the manufacturing process that is reground, mixed with virgin material and used again), or post-consumer recycled-content (ie, the product was utilized by a customer, recycled, and used to make a new product). While recycled-content options may not be as great of an option for single-use products (they’ll end up sitting in landfill eventually because most materials can only take 1-2 trips around the recycling cycle before they’re of too low quality to be recycled again), they do have a better environmental footprint than virgin plastic products.
Another great sustainability goal is to conserve or optimize resource use within your business. This could have to do with raw materials used to produce product or electricity, water, and other resources needed to run a business. By reducing or making more efficient use of resources, you can not only save money, but help to protect the environment as well. If you do need to utilize electricity and other resources, try to get them from sustainable sources, or purchase sustainable energy credits to offset your energy usage. This helps move your business closer to being carbon-neutral, as well as allows you to better allocate the resources you do use across a wider range of your business.
Finally, we have the realistic piece of sustainability goals: making sure they actually can be achieved and work in practice. If you implement industrially compostable products into your single-use product lines but there is no composter in your area or no collection system in place, then you’re not really making a whole lot of difference. However, if you help your community to implement a compost collection system for its residents, then you have completed the circular lifecycle for the compostable products. For recyclables, make sure that there is an available recycling system for that particular type of plastic in your area before implementing a recyclable product. It’s key for businesses to complete the loop and provide customers with proper end-of-life solutions for your products so they can be recycled or composted in practice and not just in theory.
There are an infinite number of sustainability goals you can set for 2021. Zero waste goals, energy conservation goals, packaging sustainability goals–the possibilities are truly endless. In this time of COVID, plastic pollution has become a widespread issue. And it’s a key issue to address in the new year. At UrthPact, our goal is to help our customers to achieve their sustainability goals by implementing our compostable single-use product lines, as well as educating our network on compostable bioplastics, certifications, and other subjects relating to the plastic pollution solution. Straws, single-use cutlery, and coffee packaging products are our three main areas of focus, and our goal is to keep 25 billion pieces of plastic from reaching oceans and landfills. The future is a sustainable one, and we’re here to help bring it to fruition.
If you’re looking to get in touch with us about getting UrthPact compostables into your business, head over to one of our handy contact forms from our website (straws, cutlery, or coffee packaging), or our general contact us form.