Industry experts are calling for consumers to learn about the environmental benefits of recycling.
Michelene Locke, sales director at ITB Flexible Packaging Solutions (ITB), a Novus Holdings company, says that consumers need to understand why recycling is key to keeping plastic out of the environment, and our oceans.
“Plastic is not inherently bad; it is our behaviour around plastic that needs to change. In some cases, plastic has the least cost to the environment, as long as it is recycled,” says Locke.
She says that plastic, if recycled, underpins the economic concept of the ‘circular economy’, in which products and materials are kept in use to build economic, natural, and social capital.
“Plastics can make a major contribution towards a circular economy, helping to achieve a more sustainable and resource-efficient future. Instead of using plastic once and then discarding it, by recycling it, consumers can play an active part in keeping the material out of landfills and oceans,” says Locke, adding that single-use plastic products can take hundreds of years to decompose if not recycled.
She adds that while plastic-free shopping bags, such as biodegradable or compostable bags are being explored as alternatives to plastic bags and adopted by some SA retailers, the research shows that this may actually be at higher cost to the environment, than continuing to use plastic bags.
Furthermore, a report compiled for the American Chemistry Council by renowned research firm TruCost in 2016 estimates that substituting plastic in consumer products and packaging with alternatives that perform the same function would increase environmental costs from $139 billion to a total of $533 billion.
Locke says that consumers must arm themselves with the facts, as “well-intentioned actions to protect the environment can actually be counter-productive”, such as ignoring the entire environmental footprint of products that are believed to be better for the environment.
“A cucumber wrapped in 1.5 grams of plastic lasts 14 days, while one without stays fresh for three days. The cost of re-producing a cucumber to replace the one that has gone bad is far higher to the environment, than the cost of producing 1.5 grams of plastic; provided that the plastic is then recycled.”
Locke adds that consumers should understand that sustainable material management, which looks at the life-cycle aspects of packaging and the use of natural resources, suggests that there is a far higher cost to the environment to use plastic-free alternatives, than using plastic responsibly by recycling.
“It is about understanding the choices we make. In order to make a true environmental impact, we must make informed choices, and behave responsibly,” concludes Locke.
About Novus Holdings:
Novus Holdings, previously known as the Paarl Media Group, is the most comprehensive commercial printing and manufacturing operation in South Africa. With its headquarters in Cape Town, the Group operates 12 plants in key metropolitan areas across South Africa.
With extensive experience, the Group services the country and customers across the African continent through its print production of all short to long run requirements of magazines, retail inserts, catalogues, books, newspapers, commercial work. The Group also produces educational materials for governments and multi-national publishers.
Beyond traditional printing, the Group has a packaging division that offers self-adhesive labels, wrap-around labels, wet-glue labelling and flexible plastic packaging as well as a tissue manufacturing division.
The holding company’s commitment to skills development and transformation is evident through the establishment of the Novus Academy, an internationally accredited training institute which offers a range of systems courses and specialised programmes.
Novus Holdings is committed to making a sustainable difference in the communities in which it operates. The Group’s Future Foundations Initiative aims to build strong foundations for future growth by focusing on education, skills development and community engagement.
Responsible business practices are a top priority with the Group leading industry through the development of stringent environmental policies to limit the impact on natural resources.
For more information, please view the website.