When I was a kid it was exciting to see a bottle on a beach, we used to race to see who could get to in first in the hope it contained a message from a marooned sailor! Now with the advent of throwaway culture and the PET bottle, todays kids will never know that thrill. Where children once decorated their sandcastle with sea-shells they now use discarded bottle caps.
Plastic pollution, it’s become an ever growing problem we’ve created in the last 50 years, and it’s showing itself to be a threat to ocean health rivaling over fishing and global warming.
At Two Hands Project we believe plastic pollution is caused by poor design, either of the plastic products or packaging themselves, or of the systems used to recover them at end of their useful life.
For example look at the humble soft-drink, a beverage billions of people enjoy daily. Disposable soft-drink (soda) bottles make up a large contribution to plastic pollution, over 30%.. so how is this pollution a design problem rather than a behavioral one? Consider the following.
What are the various delivery systems for soft drink and what contribution to plastic pollution do they have?
-single trip PET bottles, these are THE major problem, designed to be discarded after the use it’s no wonder they end up as pollution. Around 30% or less recovery with voluntary recycling.
-single trip PET bottles with a refund system, results in 80% recovery (recovery increases with higher refund)
-refillable bottles with a refund system, this is the best pre-bottled soda system, over 90% recovery (recovery increases with higher refund) zero plastic pollution if glass bottles are used.
-soda fountains, potentially zero plastic pollution if consumed in washable glassware, can be a big contributor if plastic or plastic lined take-out cups and straws are used.
-home carbonation systems, such as SodaStream , can save the production of thousands of single trip bottles a year.
These are a great choice if you love soft drink, want to reduce plastic pollution, and like to have greater control over what goes in to your drinks.
As you can see manufacturers have a CHOICE in how they deliver a product, these choices affect the amount of plastic pollution entering our environment, so companies must be held responsible for polluting designs.
This brings me to what is currently unfolding in Australia.
In an effort to reduce plastic pollution every day Australians are calling for a refund system on empty beverage containers.
Despite choosing to market to Australia using polluting single trip design, Coca Cola, Schweppes, Coopers and Lion Nathan are vigorously opposing a refund system that would massively reduce their contribution to plastic pollution..
Coca Cola have even taken the extreme steps of suing Australia’s Northern Territory for their recent adoption of the 10c refund system. This is completely out of order.
You can even make your own “boycott coke” placard and photograph you and your friends with it and post the pics.
Most importantly be aware of the role of design in plastic pollution, choose pollution free ways of enjoying your favorite things, and demand the manufacturers employing polluting design pick up their game and stop trashing our planet.
Paul Sharp, Founder Two Hands Project