According to Statista, packaging generated 46% of worldwide plastic waste in 2018, followed by the textile sector, as illustrated below in the packaging waste by sector diagram gathered by Statista in 2021.

With the 18.75% surge on the global e-commerce sales during the 2020 Pandemic, as reported by the UN Conference on Trade and Development at the beginning of this month, the need for secondary packaging has moved alongside that surge. Alibaba, Amazon and other online resellers’ procurement departments may have been extremely busy ensuring packaging procurement wouldn’t be disrupted by the international trade restrictions imposed on supply chains due to the global and quick multiplication of Covid-19 infection. Amazon has even managed to deliver parcels within a few hours of ordering and added some extra paper layers inside those parcels, minimising the operational risk. The previous emerging trend of selling from bulk where consumers showed up in the store to fill their own container, may become a short-lived marketing and sustainable initiative, hindered by that global shock. When looking for the optimal solution between number of items packed, lead times and warehouse storage space, it seems the environmental footprint hasn’t been fully considered. Some online purchased items get home even with three layers of packaging, some of which cannot be reused, only recycled.

Given that more packaging ends in households along with their lower recycling rates when compared with stores’, possibly due to either lack of recycling culture, incentives or appropriated infrastructure, it is paramount to change so. The EU has been leading on the packaging recycling. Yet, there’s room for improvement. Currently only 66% of that waste is recycled, as can be observed in the Eurostat graphic below.

What can you start doing? Stimulate your circle of influence so other households can increase recycling volume and recyclable inputs in packaging can grow again. I know isn’t easy. But with creativity, we can achieve so. Play around, go for a walk, watch a film, exercise, talk, dream. One day an idea will come. It may not be by serendipity but through the process you have previously kicked off.

A 2020 Pew research study, Breaking the Plastic Wave, alerted for the current 11 million tonnes of plastic leakage into the ocean annually, 37.5% more than previous forecast. Have you considered in your next holiday to:

  1. Throw in the recycling bin the plastic used and no longer possible to be reused;
  2. If a plastic falls from your belongings carefully pick it and recycle it;
  3. Raise awareness of those around you for the volume of annual plastic leakage, that softly kills the biosphere;
  4. volunteering to help maintain clean the space you’ve travelled to, if local community isn’t sufficiently aware?
Photo by Catherine Sheila on Pexels.com

Isn’t that awful when you’re sold a trip to a paradisiac beach but when you get there, as the weather has dramatically changed, plastics and other type of litter were brought onshore? What about the micro-plastic that we ingest when we eat fish?

The above-mentioned Pew research study, illustrated in the graphic below, Plastic Leakage into the Ocean, calls the attention on the significance of tackling plastic leakage into the ocean. From the current 11 million tonnes per year, only bold actions will ensure a substantial reduction by 2040 of 54.5%. If we keep behaving unchangeably the plastic leakage into the ocean will raise by 172,7%. Hence, a systemic change is needed or we risk depleting the ocean along with increasing its acidification, which will affect the dependent ecosystems.

Plastic leakage into ocean scenarios by Pew Research study, 2020.

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