A rising tide of consumer sentiment against use of plastics is starting to flood the world. Everywhere, you can see images of debris in the oceans choking marine animals. Dire warnings are being floated about these environmental concerns. It is estimated that 80 percent of the estimated 8 million tons of plastics that flow into the oceans each year originates on land, much of it in six Asian nations.
National Geographic says as the visibility of plastic waste has become more prominent, so have calls for a new international treaty that gets to the root of the problem. As an example, the society points to a group of marine scientists tracking how microplastics have altered genes, cells, and tissues in marine organisms — causing death and decreased reproduction.
It is reported that the plastics industry has grown so rapidly that half the plastic on Earth has been made since 2005. Disposable plastic products are said to account for 40 percent of that production and are largely blamed for the plastic mess in the oceans.
In late March, the European Union approved a ban on many single-use plastic items such as straws, stirrers, lids and plastic cutlery. The ban will go into effect in 2021. Similar bans are expected in Latin America and Asia. Retailers in Turkey on Jan. 1 began charging for plastic bags with the aim of reducing non-recyclable waste in that country where around 30-35 billion plastic bags are used annually.
Meanwhile, here in the United States, California and New York have banned single-use plastic bags, while Vermont’s legislature has taken up similar legislation. Retailers such as Kroger, Aldi, Trader Joe’s and others have already begun phasing out use of the plastic bags, while a number of cities have taken similar action.
The packaging industry needs to be concerned since its products are so visible to consumers. Consumers don’t see the fishing nets, buoys and barrels that make up a large volume of the marine debris. It is likely that bans will move up the packaging supply chain without the public realizing the effect that may have on other areas of concern, such as food waste. It’s time for the industry to take notice and innovate ways to control plastic pollution before it’s too late.
This month’s cover story previews the upcoming 2019 Global Pouch Forum, the nation’s largest and longest-running conference devoted to flexible packaging. The 23rd Global Pouch Forum will be held June 11-13 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL, adjacent to Chicago’s largest airport. After several successful years in Miami, Fla., the Forum moves to the Chicago area, which represents the heartland of U.S. packaging operations. The dynamic agenda will help you stay on top of the fastest-growing packaging segment. For more details and to register, visit www.globalpouchforum.com today.
Some of you may recognize my photo, but wonder what it is doing on the editor’s page of Flexible Packaging. Eric Fish has recently departed the magazine, and I have taken over the editor’s role after stints at BRANDPackaging and Packaging Strategies. It’s exciting to be working in this vibrant section of the industry. Let’s explore the opportunities together. I am always willing to hear your concerns and ideas. Feel free to contact me. After all, it’s your story we strive to tell.
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