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Opinion: Mark Jankovich on plastics in foodservice

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Foodservice consultants can work together to encourage second life for single-life plastic, says Mark Jankovich of Delphis Eco

Foodservice waste – and indeed waste in general – continues to dominate media headlines and corporate sustainability policy in a bid to enhance best practice. Our screens are increasingly filled with distressing pictures of ocean plastic and the destruction this has caused to the environment and to marine wildlife, which inadvertently consumes plastic and subsequently returns into the food chain.

And, consultants will be familiar with the unpalatable facts that the world is indeed, awash with plastic. Over 500 million single-use plastic bottles are used globally each day with the UK alone consuming over 38 million of those.

What is less commonly known is that only 5% to 7% of virgin plastic is recycled, which means that at least 93% goes to landfill, gets burned or lands up in the sea where it takes over 450 years to biodegrade. It is estimated that over 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean each year – that’s a dumper trucks worth per minute. The problem is mounting and collectively, we have to take responsibility.

That is why, we are challenging corporates, consultants and government to show willing, if not demand – even through legislative purpose if necessary – that more recycled plastic content is used in their packaging.

And, although many said it couldn’t be done – we have not given up and have spent five years working with specialist waste collectors to recycle used HDPE plastic, in the UK, into granules which we now use to create packaging. Our unique 100% food-grade quality Post Consumer Recycled Plastic (PCR) is being rolled out across our bottle entire packaging needs. We’ve created a down-stream demand for used HDPE plastic and proved that our 100% PCR Plastic – a world first – is fit for purpose and can be extended to many more applications. This process has been arduous but represents a long awaited ‘closing the loop’ breakthrough in the use of HDPE plastics.

High on the agenda

The magic word in this is the application of 100% PCR plastic. Yes, some manufacturers are incorporating PCR into their packaging, but this continues to be at very small levels, below 10%, with pledges being made for a decade or more ahead, which still only reflect small levels of PCR use.

Right now – big corporates and government are behind the curve. The issue needs to be embedded high on their agendas to realise that consumers want recycled/up-cycle plastics, and to drive, through legislation if necessary, a shift in the manufacturing approach to ensure a closed-loop supply cycle. And, foodservice operators need to be calling on their suppliers to act now to make a difference and reduce the damage that is being done before it becomes irreversible.

We, as a company have reduced our carbon emissions by 500 tonnes in the first year alone based on trading projections. The UK uses over three billion HDPE plastic milk bottles per year. If every one of these were recycled the UK, we would save over 140,000 tonnes of carbon. This is a huge step towards achieving our national carbon reduction target. Just imagine what a large global brand could achieve by following suit in addition to the reduction in plastic waste.

The journey is just beginning when it comes to creating a movement to increase the world’s level of recycling from between 5% – 7%, to 10% and beyond. Our breakthrough is showing the world that there can be a second life for single use plastic.

We would ask consultants across the world join together to embrace this key issue in line with high-profile campaigns to drive awareness and change across consumers themselves – who in turn will be increasing their expectation of operators across business and industry (B&I) and foodservice in general.

A starting point could be to sign the pledge below – it takes five seconds – please help us drive awareness of this growing issue.

Together we are stronger – remember the old adage “it takes many raindrops to make an ocean”.

Further details:

Click here for more information on Delphis Eco’s Milk Bottle Challenge.

Mark Jankovich is CEO of Delphis Eco