01 Jul 2019

Plastic Ban-tastic: Is a plastic ban the right fix?

Posted in: Inspiring Action

Plastic Ban-tastic: Is a plastic ban the right fix?

Pablo Kraus, Managing Director at Ecostore

Pablo Kraus, Managing Director at ecostore

When a headline from the BBC says Ocean Plastic Could Triple In A Decade – it’s fair to say that the size, scale and urgency of the problem is crystallised.

I believe those calling for something to be banned should ask two simple questions.

First, what will the ban do to reduce the undesirable behaviour?

And second, what other consequences may flow from the ban?

Bearing in mind that what has been banned could well be replaced by something less desirable or a new ‘problem’ being unleashed.

Sustainable behavioural change needs to be embedded in cultures and that includes business. Businesses understand the power of brands and the efficacy of being part of the drive to create solutions to global problems, including the present plastic crisis.

As part of the New Plastics Economy initiative, 123 consumer packaged goods, retail and packaging producing signatories have committed to making 100% of their plastic packaging reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025.

Ecostore has a very strong planet protection ethos that is anchored to sound and sustainable strategies that provide what we call a ‘ROI With Respect’. There are a suite of initiatives that ecostore prioritises including achieving Enviro-Mark® Diamond certification and carboNZeroCertTM certification for their Auckland manufacturer.

The investment was significant, but in 2014 ecostore became the first manufacturer in New Zealand to convert our bottles to renewable sugarcane-made plastic. It’s a significantly more sustainable option and shifts away from the dependence of petroleum/fossil fuels.

However, more needs to be done around how plastic is being used by consumers, particularly by encouraging refilling and reusing.

ecostore refill station at a New Zealand supermarket

ecostore refill station at a New Zealand supermarket

Recycling can be a small part of the answer, whereas refills reduce the amount of plastic consumed and the amount entering our waste stream. We’ve led the refill model in New Zealand, and now have more than 60 stations throughout New Zealand, including the first in the country to offer refills in supermarkets, with a plan for 140% growth over five years.

In 2018, our customers saved as many as 86,520 500ml bottles by using our refill stations. This is one way that ecostore helps Kiwis reduce the amount of plastic packaging they consume. We’ve developed new ways to reduce our waste by reducing bottle weight and maximising efficiency, and this has saved 28 tonnes of plastic from entering the waste and recycling streams. We are also focused on creating a more circular economy and closing the loop with our packaging to help eradicate plastic waste and pollution.

The search for petro-chemical plastic alternatives needs to be grounded in re-thinking, which is an opportunity for public and private partnerships identifying and then rewarding, innovative solutions.

It’s great to see that the chief science adviser to the prime minister, Professor Juliet Gerrard, is focused on plastics and the circular economy, working on how to change behaviour and improve recycling. She has assembled a panel who will work on the plastic life cycle, and I’m delighted that the voice of New Zealand business will be heard by local government and national government, including by having Abbie Reynolds from Business NZ on this panel.

However, we need to do more. We need to bring together business leaders from every sector in New Zealand to discuss how to cooperate on the two biggest challenges we face in the 21st century: climate change (reducing carbon) and plastic pollution.

As a country we have the talent, and capability, to create viable and sustainable solutions to help safeguard the world.

Ecostore is taking action on climate change, and we are happy to meet with any businesses who wants to champion sustainability and take action on climate change. I can’t emphasis this enough, we are all in this together and businesses need to lead the way.

When I think about my children, I think about the future, about how the world must change and about the influence we can have to shape the future we want. We must lead by example, empower others and commit through ‘doing’ in order to bring about this change.