Eco Issues for 2020 and Beyond

Eco Issues for 2020 and Beyond

There has been continuing and accelerated calls globally for action to reign in mankind activities resulting in disastrous environmental effects. Public concern about the environment has soared to record levels in the UK since the visit of Greta Thunberg to parliament and the Extinction Rebellion protests in April 2019.

The environment is now cited by people as the third most pressing issue facing the nation in tracking data from the polling company YouGov that began in 2010. Environment was ranked after Brexit and health, but is ahead of the economy, crime and immigration

Each and everyone one of us have and are still adding one drop at a time to this vast ocean of environmental disaster! One drop, every small action which seams inconsequential really, do slowly add up.  Given the serious, widespread and long-lasting effects of our actions on the planet, any discussion on eco issues necessitates looking at not just 2020 but beyond.

According to data published by IPSOS, the top three environmental issues facing Britons in 2019 were

  • dealing with waste,
  • climate change and
  • overpackaging of goods.

Dealing With Waste

When we talk about waste, the elephant in the room is PLASTIC. By the year 2050, the world’s oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish – ton for ton. This speaks volumes of the food and beverage industry for the painful repercussions of plastic packaging production.

Perhaps this mass production of plastic waste wouldn’t be so detrimental to our safety and environment if it didn’t take 700 years for a single bottle to begin decomposing. The combination of our waste production with the time needed for decomposition has led to the creation and growth of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”—an area of the Pacific Ocean composed of plastic waste and measured at the size of Texas. While addressing these problems can be done individually, by including practices such as bringing your own reusable bags to grocery stores or requesting that your coffee cup is served without a plastic lid, advocating environment friendly food packaging, the food and beverage industry leaders must take responsibility in ensuring that their production models are mindful of an ever-lasting footprint on the environment and, subsequently, the global population.

Climate Change

While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and greenhouse gas emissions are the main cause, political will has not been strong enough so far to initiate a massive policy shift away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable forms of energy. 2019 was the hottest decade. Perhaps more extreme weather events such as droughts, wildfires, heat waves, melting Arctic ice and flooding will convince the public to put more pressure on policymakers to act urgently to curb carbon emissions and address this issue before it’s too late.

Cutting carbon emissions need to be done not only from cars, factories and power plants but also from the way the world produces food and manages land if we are to reach the target of zero by 2050. Not only have our food production methods caused climate change, this potent causal relationship also means climate change itself has threatened the world’s food supply.

In 2015, most countries signed the Paris accord that aims to keep global warming “well under” 2C – and to do all they can to limit this temperature increase to 1.5C. UK is the first G7 country to enshrine a new commitment to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 into law. However,   the government’s approach is still incremental, based on making green-tinged tweaks to business hoping that we will somehow creep towards our target of net-zero.

To achieve the 1.5C limit, countries have to increase their commitments five-fold, starting NOW, according to the UNEP Emissions Gap report released for Madrid.

Overpackaging of Goods

The waste problem has been laid at the door of packaging but at the same time packaging, especially food packaging, has also been viewed as playing a crucial functional role. It is true that food packaging serves a fundamental functional role. It preserves the food product by protecting it and extending its shelf life on their journey from production to consumption. Thus it prevents waste and also enables food to be kept fresher for longer at home with re-sealable packs, dispensing systems.

We need packaging, but this should be kept to a minimum and sustainable. Element packaging advocates the use of eco-friendly and refillable containers. Element packaging is home compostable, compostable and biodegradable that does not leave nasty footprints unlike plastic packaging. There is increasing demand for sustainable packaging from regulators as well as consumers. Consumers are more aware of what biodegradable and recyclable packaging is and what is simply ‘greenwashing’. Packaging needs to be genuinely produced in a sustainable way.

There are many ways of showing support for sustainability through packaging:

  • Promoting and encouraging the use of more plant-based packaging material; More and more plant-based materials which are biodegradable and easily disposed off are used for packaging.
  • Minimizing packaging and hence waste.
  • Making sure we dispose of our packaging out carefully for collection for recycling or other treatment. We must also be mindful of the fact that recycling has its limits. Resources such as energy, water and other costs are involved to collect, sort and clean the waste. Recycling should only be an option when it saves more resources than it uses.

Moving forward.....

Be environmentally conscious. Forego the plastic baggies, skip the beef and harness the sun to light up your life.

Imagine.... 

  • Homes powered by windmill and solar panels that generate surplus electricity to feed back into national grid, providing a small income;
  • shared electric cars runs on hydrogen;
  • toilet and household waste water sent to family water purification plant for recycling;
  • delivery made by a refugee from Timbaktoo whose country was drowned by a sea level rise in 2019 ........

Remember, each and everyone one of us have and are still adding one drop at a time to this vast ocean of environmental disaster! One drop, every small action which seams inconsequential really but do slowly add up.