Sustainable Living

Is A Package-Free World In Sight?

In November 2017 the final episode of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II aired on the BBC. Viewers were shocked to find the reality of our plastic-filled oceans floating across their Sunday-night screens. Yet Attenborough’s rallying cry that “the future of all life now depends on us” seems to have woken people up to the impact of plastic waste. The BBC announced that they would ban all single-use plastics by 2020. The series apparently “haunted” Michael Gove into focusing more on plastic waste reduction, and many UK families are following suit.

In 2016 the UK spent around 9.9 billion pounds on take-away meals. Each year the amount of take-away meals eaten by UK citizens appears to be on the rise. While take-away food can be a quick, easy and delicious choice, the amount of plastic waste associated with food deliveries is huge. Just Eat conducted a survey asking their customers whether they felt they needed the plastic cutlery, sacheted sauces and straws that come with their food deliveries. 74% of consumers responded saying they did not need these items. Additionally, 49% of consumers added that they would be more likely to go to a restaurant if they didn’t use single-use plastic items.

With awareness surrounding plastic waste growing, consumers are beginning to shift their wasteful habits, and companies are being forced to follow. But if plastic is forever banned by the big guys then what could replace it?

Enter The Skipping Rocks Lab, a sustainable packaging start-up based in London. This innovative company are not only choosing to ditch the plastic, but to offer up alternatives that are good for the planet and good for us. Using natural materials made from plants and seaweed, The Skipping Rocks Lab is proof that a world with no packaging is possible, and it might even be right around the corner.

At the beginning of the year, Just Eat partnered with The Skipping Rocks Lab to support the research and development of package-free alternatives. Graham Corfield, the UK managing director of Just Eat commented that “many of the plastics polluting our oceans are by-products of food and drink consumption […] We are using our influence to drive more environmentally-friendly behaviour among our partners and customers”.

One of the first innovations created by The Skipping Rocks Lab is Ooho, a water bottle with a difference. Ooho is made solely from plants and seaweed, will biodegrade in 4-6 weeks and is edible. Less like a large plastic water bottle, Ooho is more of a mini round pod the size of your palm. Ooho was designed to “provide the convenience of plastic bottles without the environmental impact”. While the product is only being sold at events currently, the development of sustainable products like these could be a massive game-changer. Not only does the research of The Skipping Rocks Lab offer insight into the bright future ahead in terms of plastic alternatives, but the fact that big businesses like Just Eat are getting on board could make our transition to these kinds of products even faster.

A key lesson to take from this is that we, as consumers, have a great influence on the actions that the companies we choose to buy from take; as consumers, we are at the forefront of demanding a change when it comes to plastic waste. A package-free world is entirely achievable, we just need to speak up and let companies and organisations know that it is an issue we care about and feel they need to address.

About the author

Rebecca Tyers

After three years of studying a BA in English Literature I wanted to use my writing to make sense of the world and the social and cultural issues that matter to me. While completing my Master's in Social Anthropology my passion for sustainability grew, and I became increasingly interested in the sustainability of the world's food systems. I hope to use both my writing and passion for sustainability to inspire others to look beyond themselves, so we can think more about the impact of our everyday choices and collectively work to make positive, sustainable change a reality.

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