Let’s talk about plastic

One of the most talked about environmental issues that we (the planet) are currently facing is plastic waste and disposal.  The use and disposal method impacts nearly every industry, especially those with involvement in food and drink. Recently, ‘The Association of Independent Festivals’ and ‘The Raw Foundation’ have created the 2018 edition of the ‘Plastic Free Festival Guide’, explaining the issue in more detail with a focus on the specific contribution from events.

In the event world, single use plastics such as straws, water bottles, food containers and drink cups are where the problems predominantly stem. A staggering 38.5 million plastic bottles are used every day in the UK, 10 million of which are wasted at UK festivals alone every year. Glastonbury, one of the leading festivals in the UK, have been making serious efforts in reducing their plastic waste by imposing a zero plastic bottles rule. They have said it’s “an enormous project and its taking a lot of time to tackle it with all the different people we work with”.

Last week the AIF launched the ‘Drastic On Plastic’ Campaign, with over 60 festivals and suppliers pledging to ban plastic straws this season, and all single-use plastic products within 3 years. It will be interesting to see what methods they implement to substitute single-use plastics as the campaign calls for re-use rather than single-use in an aim to change our throw-away attitudes. As part of the campaign the AIF and The Raw Foundation have also created a ‘Festivalgoer Guide’ aimed at attendees to help raise awareness of the issues caused by our use of plastics and how we can reduce our plastic footprint.

Last week in our Whitechapel Offices, Mindspace hosted an open conversation on the issues of plastics. The panellists discussed the outrageous quantity of food and plastic waste within the supermarkets and the viable alternatives to a more sustainable future. One of the main points they are pushing is plastic free food aisles, as it has become the norm to find the majority of fruit and veg encased in a plastic wrap or containers. Bio-degradable plastics, which are polymers manufactured using plant sugars were also discussed. These options had seemed like great alternatives to me, although can actually cause more issues through deforestation for farmland.  Other alternatives such as Tetrapak that claim to be 100% recyclable, utilise a massive amount of energy and water to break down the material, which creates the argument as to whether the product is really feasible.

Like supermarkets in some parts of Europe – where you are able to easily recycle your used packaging and be reimbursed with a discount off your next shopping trip – I think a system that allows festival/event attendee’s the option to deposit their used plastic cups and packaging for a reduction on the next order would be a good step towards reducing landfill waste and encouraging recycling. Equally a deposit cost of .25p/50p on the plastic cup used to serve your drink could encourage people to keep hold of it for the second trip to the bar.

To coincide with World Earth Day on Sunday April 22nd, the AIF launched a 24hr digital campaign adopted by many festivals will show their websites ‘wrapped in plastic’ to support the cause and raise awareness of single use plastic. Visitors to festival websites during the 24 hour period were shown key facts about the extent and impact of everyday plastic use, along with links to resources from the RAW Foundation. With festivals and suppliers taking a stand against plastic through the ‘Drastic On Plastic’ campaign and increasing awareness of the problems associated with single-use plastics we must now work together to support each other to become more sustainable. Undoubtedly we all have a role to play in changing attitudes towards plastic consumption and to make being sustainable more convenient.