Peter Schott // pcs2144
(1) Sustainability Problem: Waste
Per the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 32% of plastics escape the collection system to urban infrastructure and waterways. 8M tons of plastic are diverted to the oceans annually while after-use externalities and the costs associated with GHGe from plastic packaging production are estimated to be 40B annually (conservative, by UNEP)**. This cost is only expected to increase as volume grows with consumption patterns (business as usual).
(2) Plastics are bad and biodegradable plastics are not necessarily better!!!
- More sustainable alternatives to plastic, such as biodegradable plastics, are controversial as the ocean environment is not conducive to promote the break down of the materials
- Snact and Tipa have created packaging that can be composted in a garden in 6 months
- US Department of Agriculture (USDA) are experimenting with the creation of an edible plastic made from casein (milk protein), which looks promising as it is 60% more effective in reducing foods exposure to oxygen; there is potential to add flavors and/or nutrients to these edible films
- Packaging materials and waste is part of the problem however the broader waste management system is important to promoting/enabling recycling and composting
Article: Compostable and edible packaging: the companies waging war on plastic, The Guardian.com
Food & Agriculture companies (Business-to-Business) will remain the main stakeholders with implementing this technology however consumer demand (Business-to-Consumer) will be a key component to driving this adoption as these sustainable packing alternatives are more expensive than traditional plastic.
Other stakeholders include policymakers to overcome the challenges to remove traditional plastics from the waste stream (and drive adoption of alternatives) and industry associations/NGOs to foster relationships and the implementation of pilot programs.
Given that the focus of this is to drive end-user (customer) adoption/deploy this technology, the below does not contain steps to fix the broader re-processing infrastructure
- Support research that attempts to investigate the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable packaging materials to identify adjacent sector synergies; use these insights to build an evidence-based business case for the technologies
- Use the business case to steer investment towards funding R&D of plastic material alternatives (see video below) to expedite a vetted packaging product that is less destructive and more effective than plastics
- Collaborate with Industry Associations/NGOs to pilot products B2B and B2C, to test user adoption, so that the pilots can be scaled and further investment reduces the cost gap between the manufacturing of traditional plastic packaging and the edible, biodegradable food packaging alternatives
Sources (in addition to article linked above):