As I am writing this note, summer is approaching, and the yearly vacationers’ migration to the beaches has just started. In the past, we could regard this season with aloof detachment, musing philosophically upon the cycles of nature. Or – if you are into single- use and food service deliveries – about this time you’d have been pressed by the need to have picnic cups and plates well stocked & delivered to the shelves for the season.
But today, we can’t help shuddering at the thought of how many vacationers will find plastic littering on our beaches.
None of us makes plastic products with the intention to have them thrown into our seas, or buried in landfills. Yet litterbugs do exist, and so does poor waste collection in many municipalities. And their damage is visible, with its obvious consequence: the mounting wave of “plastic haters” and the demonization of an entire industry.
But maybe, just maybe, things could change. Reports from think-tanks such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation or the UN Sustainability Programme invariably start with the sentence: “Plastic is an amazing material”. No sensible person thinks we can turn back the clock of history and do without it. All advocate to use it sensibly, refrain from overpackaging, reuse and recycle… looking forward to a future when even plastic will come from resources which can be renewed in a short time.
Meanwhile, petro-chem giants started initiatives to clean the oceans under the umbrella organization of the “Alliance to end plastic waste”. The plastic industry has started to speak up against pollution AND in favor of plastics – yes, no oxymoron there.
Your SPE-European Thermoforming Division intends to follow on these steps and help European professionals, companies and organization give a more concrete picture of what plastic can do for us, and how can we use it sensibly. Last but not least, what does it mean for the environment to do without it: as experts know, life-cycle assessment analysis often shows recycled plastics to be the solution with least environmental impact.
The K’ Show in autumn will be a good moment for our industry to meet and plan our steps. The next European Thermoforming Conference shall be centered around this topic: we’ll be at the K’ Show to inform you of what’s going on and to collect your inputs. Who are the major organizations taking action? How can we design for reuse? What can be recycled and what can’t? How can we use recycled plastics? and much more…
Precious information for a plastic professional to know, when confronted with simplistic “plastic-is-the-devil” accusations.
Even more precious for an organisation, to decide on the best way to act and communicate what it does for the environment.
That’s why the topic of our Conference will be “Thermoforming for a Greener Future”. Impossible for a single person to do. But what if we coordinate our actions? Indeed, sustainability may be the best occasion we have to renew our industry.
Chairman of the SPE ETD Board