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January 5, 2019 | Intolerance for Plastic Pushing Producers to Change

Danielle Park

Portfolio Manager and President of Venable Park Investment Counsel ( Ms Park is a financial analyst, attorney, finance author and regular guest on North American media. She is also the author of the best-selling myth-busting book "Juggling Dynamite: An insider's wisdom on money management, markets and wealth that lasts," and a popular daily financial blog:

About a year ago, we realized that sorting plastic waste into recycling bins was mostly a farce as some 80% of plastics were piling up in landfill and waterways around the world.  In reality, just 9% of the total plastic ever generated has been recycled.

For many years, developing countries accepted the plastic waste of high consumption countries for a fee.  In 2017, China, who had been stockpiling 45% of the world’s plastic waste for decades, said it was running out of places to put it and stopped accepting low-grade and single-use plastics. This was a good development, as I wrote here, since out of sight out of mind has been enabling a plastic disaster.

Wanting to be part of the solution, our household stepped up our personal intolerance for plastic packaging over the past year and have been able to reduce our use of it by about two thirds.

We have long used reusable bags when we go shopping, but this year we increased reusable containers and wrappers inside the home and when we travel, as well as speaking to store managers and producers about our desire for less plastic, leaving containers with stores where necessary, seeking out vendors that minimize plastic, as well as making several personal products for our use (as explained here) where the store-bought versions come only in plastic.

Just one huge help in this goal was switching to cleaning with nano-fibre cloths that pick up dirt and bacteria using just water without the need for cleaning products that come in plastic (works beautifully for the face and teeth stains too!)

One particular area of frustration we have noted is that many earth and health-friendly products come in plastic-only containers.  We continue to ask health-focused restaurants and product producers to expand the integrity of their product to include their packaging and takeaway containers.

It turns out that growing consumer intolerance, along with rising regulation, are finally forcing makers of top household brands to rethink their packaging. It is well past time to do so.  As always, necessity is the mother of innovation.  See:  Plastic is big food’s next headache:

Consumer activism is growing: “Plastic attacks,” where shoppers pay for groceries but leave packaging for supermarkets to deal with, have spread across the world. Companies also face mounting environmental pressure from shareholders such as Aviva Investors and Hermes Investment Management.

Other investors, such as Daniel Loeb’s Third Point at Nestlé, are pushing European consumer companies to cut costs at a time of limited sales growth, which is one reason their stocks often change hands at punchy earnings multiples. Simultaneously appeasing activists of both financial and environmental kinds could become one of big food’s biggest challenges in 2019.

In the list of potential New Year’s resolutions for individuals, helping to reverse the plastic tsunami through our personal action and intolerance is a worthy one.

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January 5th, 2019

Posted In: Juggling Dynamite

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