Closing the Loop on Plastics
The glass industry rightly prides itself on its closed-loop recycling process. Established since 40 years, the closed-loop ensures that all available glass goes back into making new glass, thereby reducing the industry’s environmental footprint and minimising the amount of glass which goes to landfill.
A new initiative – known as the Plastics Disclosure Project (PDP) – aims to create a similar closed loop for the plastics industry. PDP estimates that around one-third of all plastics are used once and then thrown away. Glass has a recycling rate of around 68% in Europe, PDP estimates that just 15% of plastics are recycled globally.
Plastics are designed to be durable and they can often last in the environment for many centuries. While most goes into landfill, increasing amounts of plastic are entering our oceans and forming vast islands of waste. One of the largest is in the North Pacific Gyre of the coast of California. It is often referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch because of the amount of garbage accumulating there. Fish and another marine life mistake the plastic for food – often with fatal consequences.
PDP’s long-term aim is to create a world in which plastic adds value for consumers and businesses without negatively impacting the environment. One of the first proposed initiatives is for businesses to disclose and report their ‘plastics footprint’. Reporting would be carried out using similar methodologies businesses currently use to calculate their greenhouse gas emissions and water usage. Once the amount of plastics is quantified, PDP aims to encourage sustainable business practices with regard to plastics and to develop innovative design solutions for plastic products.
Although no companies have formally signed-up to the project, PDP founder Doug Woodring says that investment funds in the Australia, India, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States have agreed to be partners. The PDP initiative has also been discussed at the UN’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development which was held last month. For the sake of the planet, and particular the world’s oceans, the Friends of Glass hope the PDP initiative succeeds!