AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 37 36 AUTUMN//WINTER 2018 PICTURES from Indonesia showing ‘solid rafts’ of plastic bags and bottles in local rivers, talk of the 965,000 square miles of plastic in a region of the South Pacific created by circular currents, and Blue Planet II showing images of sea horses holding cotton buds in their tails have all raised the profile of our use and disposal of plastics. Plastics and their derivatives were the wonder products of the 1970s, due in no small part because of the availability of oil and the fact that it was relatively cheap and energy efficient to produce. The flip side is we have all come to regard it as a throwaway material, not actually thinking about how to dispose of it responsibly. Many plastics have been recyclable and biodegradable for years, but few think about how we can do this ourselves, unless our local council has offered recycling schemes. Polypropylene has been a popular material for filing products since the 1990s. Made from recycled plastics and recyclable too, it came to the fore 20 years ago because of the fantastic colours and finishes available at the time. Polypropylene is less popular now, as we tend to use board with interesting print and foil finishes more which, unfortunately, are likely to be impossible to recycle unless the elements can be successfully separated. Disposing of plastic is a worldwide problem, brought into the spotlight recently when China, which recycled a significant percentage of British plastics, closed its doors to our waste. All of a sudden we have to get better at dealing with it ourselves or find another willing partner to do it for us. Earlier this year the government set targets around minimising waste and materials reuse, with the focus on zero avoidable waste, meeting waste targets, eliminating waste crime and significantly reducing marine plastic pollution. The target is to achieve these goals by between 2042 and 2050. Everyone applauds this stance but many, including the European Union, feel it should be enshrined in law to ensure the targets have some bite. They believe the real answer is HENRI DAVIS reports on the problems and solutions surrounding our love affair with plastics. THE WAR ON PLASTIC Plastic pollution on a beach in the Dominican Republic.Photo:DustanWoodhouse on Unsplash STATIONERY BIZ to have a circular approach to this problem, where we recycle and reuse more, rather that create yet more virgin products. The food industry has responded with a voluntary pledge to transform packaging and reduce avoidable plastic waste. Forty-two companies, including seven of the largest supermarkets, have supported this new pledge, committing that by 2025 all plastic packaging can be reused, recycled or composted. These are big enough businesses and users of plastic packaging to make a difference to the UK’s usage. Other retailers are happy to declare their stance on the use of sustainable materials and waste management as well, for example Paperchase, which is fulfilling its obligations under the WEEE regulations for the disposal of batteries and electrical equipment and the use of sustainably sourced timber for their paper and board, but as yet there is nothing around plastics. While WHSmith is not explicit about the detail of what it does in this respect, it has a clear policy about reducing the amount of its waste going to landfill and being recycled, and is not embarrassed to say that part of this is driven by financial considerations, including the landfill levies they are charged and the cost of unnecessary packaging. However, at the moment this is all based around voluntary actions and targets and not enshrined in legislation. When businesses and consumers are working with limited budgets and incomes, there is a reluctance to invest in new processes or spend more on environmentally friendly products. This means there is a danger that there will be little support from business or consumers for these reductions unless it saves them money – certainly in the immediate future. We all need to adopt greener practices as habit. The BOSS Federation, the trade association which serves the UK office supplies and services industry, was asked by a number of its members to see if it could raise awareness of the single-use plastics issue within its sector of the industry, and to encourage best practice in all areas of the supply chain. In July, interested parties came together at a meeting to agree terms of reference and define what should be included. They agreed to educate themselves and others on information and issues relating to this area, including common data gathering and reporting, improving by encouraging compliance with agreed best practice, and lobbying by using industry and government contacts to influence both legislation and the industry as a whole. Stewart Superior’s Seco range, which has strong environmental credentials, has been available for a number of years. The materials used to make these products are recycled where possible; the products and packaging are recyclable; the products are completely oxo-biodegradable and the products function as normal while being used… the best of both worlds! Of course plastics are also used for pens, and Pilot Begreen was the first full range of recycled pens to be offered at the same price as its normal range. Six years on, the Begreen range is popular in the B2B channel, as businesses need to be seen to use environmentally friendly products. For consumers, however, pen selection is more personal around look and function, and recycled materials used in their manufacture do not seem to be key in the decision-making process. However, given that environmental matters continue to dominate modern life, I am convinced consumers will become more savvy over such issues as product miles, country of origin and packaging and, if in the future we can reduce any price premium, I am sure that will help products with environmental benefits grow in popularity with consumers and put pressure on retailers to stock them. The B2p ballpoint pen and gel pens by Pilot are made from recycled bottles Seco range by Stewart Superior WE ALL NEED TO ADOPT GREENER PRACTICES AS HABIT.