Initially hailed for its non-decaying, cheap to manufacture, lightweight properties, we are now heavily reliant on plastic. It’s everywhere. Including our oceans.
For those of you who are still watching X-Factor on a Sunday (really people, come on), please turn over. Unfortunately, Sir David Attenborough can’t make a documentary about our Blue Planet (II) without sounding a stark warning of the detrimental effects our increasing use of plastic is having on marine life and the wider ecosystem. An adult albatross trying to feed her chicks with a belly full of plastic is unfortunately an increasingly common occurrence.
By 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish (by weight). Yes, you did read that right; 8 million tonnes of plastic a year are dumped in the sea and by the way, plastics production is expected to double again over the next 20 years.*
Surely, a situation so awful deserves immediate collective action? You would hope so. 95% of material value in plastic packaging is lost in the economy shortly after first use.* It’s not unreasonable to expect businesses to start thinking about their waste streams.
This is why we focus on the practices of a company throughout our analysis for our sustainable fund. Waste management and recycling is one part of the process – a number of companies are already achieving zero waste to landfill (we own a number of Japanese examples).
Companies are thinking about how they can maximise efficiency and minimise waste, using science and investing in R&D to attempt to find innovative ways to reduce the environmental impacts of their products.
A couple of examples…The plastics in our waters are not always visible; toxic fibres from our clothing come away when we wash them, and 40% of them end up in our rivers and oceans. Inditexis using a more sustainable alternative – a biodegradable fibre made through transforming cotton waste into high-quality sustainable fibres, making 6.3 million garments from the material in 2016 alone.
Mohawk wouldn’t come through a screen if you were to focus on exposure to waste management, yet they are one of the largest recyclers of PET bottles in the US. Recycling over 5.5 billion bottles every year to make their EverStrand carpet, that’s around 14 bottles a second being turned in to a premium product. And Mohawk’s activities are even more admirable in the context of the woeful levels of recycling generally achieved in the US. Finally, EverStrand is actually better than other polyester carpets because the FDA expects such high standards of plastic bottles in the US (Bonus!)
*Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation