The plastic problem: Entrepreneurs leading the war on waste

In the Spring 2019 issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine, Hannah Richards explores the plastic problem and identifies some of the entrepreneurs leading the fight against pollution and waste.

In the most recent Blue Planet series, David Attenborough voiced his concern over the current state of our seas.

“Plastic is now found everywhere in the ocean, from its surface to its greatest depths,” Sir David wrote. “There are fragments of nets so big they entangle the heads of fish, birds and turtles, and slowly strangle them. Other pieces of plastic are so small that they are mistaken for food and eaten, accumulating in fishes’ stomachs, leaving them undernourished.”

He stresses how if we are to protect our planet, and improve the welfare of these animals, then we need to take action now. We are at a turning point, where we can consciously choose to take the necessary steps to prevent further pollution. Irreversible damage has been done, but there is still time to slow down the effects.

Ever since the invention of plastic in 1907, the lack of its recycling and degradation of the material, fish and animals have played victim to the deadly man-made substance. Although Attenborough has highlighted the critical deterioration of our oceans, these issues have been deeply rooted long before Attenborough’s episodes were aired.

But, the issue, which has taken a backseat to more ‘pressing issues’ has finally been recognised as a fundamental and vexing problem. Many have attempted to bring this into the public eye, taking matters into their own hands. And now, finally; thanks to Sir David, Blue Planet and subsequent news articles, the public is listening.

Making a change

Initiating small changes in our daily routine can help pave the way for change. Choosing a paper bag to put your fruit and vegetables in, taking your own reusable bags to the supermarket and drinking your coffee from an ecological cup can all help towards reducing waste.

David McLagan, founder of Ecoffee Cup, the re-usable bamboo coffee cup, describes how “over 100 billion single-use cups go to landfill globally each year (Starbucks, in the US alone, serves 8,000 cups per minute). Unfortunately, the issue of single-use plastic is not going away anytime soon, but there are many proactive steps we can take, including choosing reusable and biodegradable products rather than opting for the ‘convenience’ of single-use or plastic items.”

He talks about how changing attitudes towards consumption and waste will be the catalyst for change. By raising awareness of the issues, we will be able to “influence consumer consciousness to the point that we see a marked change in attitudes and increasing numbers of people switching to reusabales.”

It’s easy to forget the plastic we use, and dispose of, in our day to day lives. From the straw in our drinks to the toothbrush we dispose of quarterly, this waste is finding it’s way into landfill and our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a product of this waste, an island of plastic containing around 79,000 tons of discarded plastic and covering an area of 617,800 square miles according to a study published by Scientific Reports.

But progress is being made. Georganics, in West Sussex, works with local suppliers to produce a fully natural oral care range which is 100% cruelty-free, plastic-free and environmentally sustainable. They use ingredients from pure, organic sources to produce a range toothpaste, mouthwash and toothbrushes.

The UK government are hoping to prevent the production and use of the 8.5 billion plastic straws which are thrown away here every year. Companies such as Ecostrawz have developed glass alternatives, which can be used time and time again, and bamboo disposables which are completely biodegradable. Their ethos stretches through to their postage and packaging which is also plastic-free and non-toxic. They actively encourage development and collaboration, believing it to be more important to work together than to compete in the plastic-free product space.

However, it is far more complex than toothpaste, coffee-cups and plastic straws. But, by supporting these entrepreneurs’ revolutionary concepts; and adapting to a plastic-free way of life, we will be able to inhibit the pollution of our oceans and take steps towards cleaning up the mess that we, the human-race, have created.

You can view the full, digital version of the spring issue of the Great British Entrepreneurs Magazine here.