About

ONE SMALL CHANGE

What does The Plastic Letters Project do?

The Plastic Letters Project emails large polluters asking them to change their ways and suggesting product redesigns that reduce or eliminate plastic.

FEEL FREE TO JOIN IN!

This site is an archive of all the letters that have been posted and all the responses I get. Please join me: simply copy and paste the letter (you can change it at will) into an email and use the email addresses provided to add your voice to the growing number of consumers who are #sickofplastic.

ALSO FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER WHERE I’LL BE TWEETING COMPANIES TOO.

 

A bit of background:

Single-use plastic pollution is one of the devastating environmental catastrophes of our time.

We’ve all heard the figures:

8 million metric tonnes of plastics end up in the oceans each year.

The Great Pacific garbage patch is anywhere between 700,000 square kilometres and 15,000,000 square kilometres and is denser than we thought.

Less than 10% of the 6 BILLION metric tonnes of plastics produced since the 1950s has been recycled.

Yet the global packaging industry is booming and predicts expanding until it is worth $261 billion by 2025.

As consumers, we are surrounded by the message that we are to blame and that we have to make better choices.  Meanwhile, companies like Coca Cola can continue to pump out 1 billion pieces of virgin plastic each year and hide behind recycling initiatives and beach cleans where virtuous citizens volunteer to pick up their trash.  Governments are willing to take small steps, like banning microbeads or plastic cutlery, but they’re not willing to harm their lobbyists by hitting them in the pocket until they change their ways and invest a fraction of their billions of profit in materials research and development.

It’s time to start naming and shaming the companies who are causing so much harm.

But it’s also time to do something positive.

I discovered how impossible it was to make plastic-free choices when I undertook a month-long No Plastic Challenge living experiment in 2016.

I’m tired of the consumer-shaming.  I have a limited amount of time, energy and money and I want the real culprits to have to do something about this problem. Growing numbers of people are waking up to the urgent necessity to curb the use of single-use plastic, but governments are backing big business and refusing to take action.

I’M #SICKOFPLASTIC.  WE NEED A CHANGE.

 

11 thoughts on “About

  1. Plastic is the devils nectar ot will cocoon and suffocate all life eventualy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds quite resigned – I think we can still force change if we point the finger in the right direction! Thanks for the comment…feel free to join in by emailing companies too 🙂

      Like

  2. I am with you .
    Not great on computer BUT will do my best and spread far and wide.
    All the best,
    Johnny O’Mahony

    Like

    1. Hi Johnny, thanks so much! It’s amazing to see how many people completely understand my message here about corporate accountability being overlooked. Keep an eye out tomorrow for my next week’s target! All shares and responses and involvement gratefully received and if YOU have plastic bugbears or companies that are causing plastic waste you’d like to see targeted, you can let me know here. Thanks again x

      Like

  3. Hi, i had understood from an article that you are encouraging people to write hard copy letters?
    Instead of emails because its so easy to ignore emails.
    Has this changed?

    Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Jonathan,
    thanks so much for dropping me a line, I actually feel that email is better, partly because hard copy letters themselves are a source of pollution unless written on recycled, sustainably sourced, non-toxic paper! Also because I feel we live in a particularly time-poor era and that many people will not participate if it requires them to go to the extra lengths involved in writing and sending a letter. To make it easy for people, I post a template email and also the email address or links to contact forms I’ve used to get in touch with the company. Of course, it’s amazing if people want to compose their own email in their own words.

    In my experience so far, big companies do respond to customer complaints and queries as to not do so looks poor! So far, over 20 people have emailed Cadbury and many have gotten in touch with their responses. Here’s the email and my initial responses from Cadbury so far, although the communication is ongoing and I’m awaiting a reply to my last mail: https://theplasticletters.home.blog/cadbury/

    Thanks so much! Feel free to let me know if you’ve had a response yourself!
    Ellie

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  5. Hopefully the goal is to pressure companies to implement packaging which scientifically and factually have the least impact on the environment. Pressuring companies to get rid of plastic just for sake of getting rid of plastics cause it might feel good is a terrible idea. Moving away from plastic packaging to implement a solution with a much larger negative environmental footprint and impact only moves the problem to another area. It makes environmental pollution worse while people feel good about doing it. The smart approach would be to perform LCA studies on the packaging in question and use that data to pressure companies to move in a direction with the most environmental and least impacting packaging options.

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    1. Hi, thanks for your comment. I wonder if you could let me know what your own background or field is? I also wonder if you could link me to an LCA study that you feel is good? Maybe you’re interested in helping out? I value people’s input on this project. Here are some responses to your comment:

      To be quite honest, I don’t think the “smart approach” is for members of the public to HAVE to take their resources of time and energy to conduct studies that should be de rigeur during product design, and enforced with legislation and punitive taxation: the public doesn’t make the profits, the companies do. If you read my letters to companies, you will see I also do mention other packaging considerations: Tampax, for example, doesn’t need to use bleached cardboard in their applicators and could launch a quick ad campaign to inform their customers of the environmental benefits of a change. It goes without saying that the companies will have to invest their time and money into ensuring their alternative is fit for purpose and doesn’t come with unsustainable environmental impacts of its own. But the onus must be on them because it’s their waste and their profit.

      There are countless examples of emerging materials in development that large companies could invest in to produce alternatives to single-use plastics, which ultimately are going to have to be phased out anyway. Many of the best of these are derived from waste products or are growable and harvestable, from films sourced from algae to coffee grounds and rice bran. The packaging materials of the future will need to be incredibly diverse and from multiple sources to replace the multi-functionality of the plastics family. But as we move away from oil dependence, this needs to happen anyway. There are no alternatives: recycling plastics, as I’m sure you’re aware, is incredibly inefficient and only makes sense in the context of the valuable durable plastics in the closed-loop circular economy towards which we must move.

      This circular economy will require a vast shift towards reusables and incorporates huge changes to our value chain systems and logistics. However, a small amount of single-use packaging will inevitably need to remain in areas like medical care and food. This packaging needs to be made from materials that are biodegradable and non-toxic. Single-use plastics can only be a) recycled inefficiently b)managed in landfill for their entire life span, in which case they enter the environment through the activities of animal life anyway and c)incinerated, resulting in an average of 20% of their original weight in bottom ash laden with dioxin, heavy metals and other dangerous compounds; this ash requires long-term management as hazardous waste, and this doesn’t include fly ash, scrubber residues, and emissions themselves.

      I’m interested to hear what you believe has a “much larger environmental impact” than single use plastic and how this is arrived at; biodegradability weighs heavily in favour of a material like paper, which can also be sourced from sustainably managed forests which offset some of the carbon of production, and can be composed of recycled paper or bulked up/ reinforced with additives such as hemp or waste from the sugar cane industry.

      I know industry is fond of saying that plastic bags are so much lighter than paper ones that it takes one truck to carry the same unit number of plastic bags as it would take four trucks to carry the paper bag equivalent. To me, this is laughably short-sighted: the plastics life cycle starts with the wars that keep oil prices down and ends with the long-term health impacts of microplastics entering our food chain and the 400 year and up lifespan of plastic waste. Yes, I know there are issues like deforestation and transport to consider with other materials.

      I eagerly await a good example of an LCA study – really interested to find out more!
      Ellie

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      1. Hello,

        Here is a little of my background. In 2009 I created a company with a sole focus to address the global plastic pollution problem. We have brought the leading experts together to develop technologies using research, science and data for solutions that will have the largest environmental benefit.

        I apologize if my comment caused people to get defensive. Solving plastic pollution should have nothing to do with personal feelings but only with facts, data and science. One thing to keep in mind about the argument of who is responsible (public vs companies), is that it’s not the companies who are discarding the packaging into the wrong environment, it is the public. The public has definitely as much to do with this problem as the companies making products. This is evident at the value of the cause – The Plastic Letters Project. There is no benefit in creating a company basing campaign if the real purpose behind the movement is to solve plastic pollution. We have found that companies are more than willing to explore and move in directions which their customers and consumers want.
        What my point with my comment was that it is dangerous to put pressure on companies to move in a direction that is “feel good” but doesn’t have any research and data to back it up. Again, is the goal to solve plastic pollution or to just get rid of plastics? This is an area that does tend to get a little gray as there are those who jump on the plastic bashing bandwagon and do so with the belief (not facts) that using any other material is better than using plastics. It’s easy for these types of people to say they are anti-plastics because they are trying to solve plastic pollution but this notion would be false. Any pressure put onto companies to move away from any sort of packaging material should be based on science, data and facts and not on feelings.

        Your comment “There are countless examples of emerging materials in development that large companies could invest in to produce alternatives to single-use plastics” misses a fundamental fact; does the alternative material have a smaller environmental impact. Sure there are a number of alternative materials to plastics but I can tell you that very few of them have a lower environmental footprint over what would be called standard plastics. These alternative materials will be disposed of into the same environments as standard plastics.

        For example; the article I read mentioned The Plastic Letters Project is pressuring Cadbury to move away from single-use plastics and go back to aluminum foil (which by the way is also single-use). So both packaging is single-use, neither will have an opportunity of being recycled (too small) so they will both be destined for a landfill or incineration. Aluminum foil will need to be removed with incineration (more carbon used) and will sit in a landfill forever. Plastics can at least be used as fuel in incineration and there are technologies (such as what we’ve developed) which allow plastics to convert naturally into biogas within a landfill which is then used to create clean energy and fuel.

        When it comes to alternative materials the issue of shelf-life must also be addressed as in many cases it will result in reducing the product shelf-life. Reducing the shelf-life of food products has a HUGE environmental impact.

        I’m attaching a copy of our white paper titled: “Plastics – Establishing the Path to Zero Waste.” This is an all-inclusive paper designed to help sustainability managers develop strategies for designing solutions to address plastics used in products and packaging. It will also give an idea of the pragmatic approach we take with developing solutions to address plastic pollution using science and data.

        There is already a lot of LCA data that can be found online with searches. I’ll attach a link to one which compares bottle applications as well as one we have done with our technologies. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as an LCA that will cover it all. Each application needs to have it’s LCA data ran to see how it would compare to alternative materials. My original point is that it is dangerous to push a solution because it might feel or sound good but has no factual data to support. What we are finding is that most of these other ideas (including recycling of many items) has a larger environmental impact than sending it to a landfill for energy recovery (not incineration).

        As an organization I wouldn’t expect you to perform the LCA on a product/packaging (maybe if the project was funded) but I would encourage the approach to be to push companies to move in a more environmental direction based on the data that they receive when performing LCA on applications and not on a feel good notion.

        I know from experience that in almost all cases the data would not support using a single-use aluminum foil as a wrapper over a single-use plastic one. The environmental impact would be greater and that would be terrible for the project to realize 10, 15, or 20 years down the road that the efforts might have moved companies away from plastics but that what they moved to polluted the planet worse.

        Please feel free to reach out with any questions. I would be happy to put you in touch with our head of sustainability if you would like a resource to keep on file.

        Keep up the great work.

        Regards,
        Danny Clark
        President
        ENSO Plastics
        4710 E. Falcon Dr. Suite 220
        Mesa, AZ 85215
        office: (623) 242-2387
        skype: dannyclark.enso
        web: http://www.ensoplastics.com

        Making today’s waste, tomorrow’s energy!

        Like

  6. Hmmm….aluminium foil breaks down in around 70-80 years according to my research, and is also recyclable alongside cans when clean, where do you get the information that foil lasts as long as plastic in the environment?

    Like

    1. Hello,

      I would look into the details of where you got your information on aluminum foil “breaking down”. Aluminum is an element and doesn’t break down smaller as it is already an atom. Aluminum will definitely not “biodegrade” as it is a metal and an element. When it comes to foil used in candy and food wrappers the foil is usually not just aluminum foil, it include a polymer layer to allow for mailability. Although aluminum is recyclable, aluminum foil is not recycled (especially small aluminum and polymer candy wrapper). But don’t take my word for it call your recyclers and tell them you have a handful or a bag of aluminum candy wrappers and ask them if they will take them and if they will actually be recycled. You will find that the answer is no. Aluminum foil used for cooking is much different than foil used in multilayer candy wrappers.

      Foil doesn’t last as long as plastics in the environment, foil lasts much longer as it is an element. Microbes do biodegrade plastics but it takes a very long time as they typically have easier accessible carbon sources and with the long chained polymers it takes longer for them to figure out which enzymes to use to break the molecule apart.

      The white paper that I sent over will be a great resource in understanding the differences between what is technically possible and the realities of waste management of today’s infrastructures.

      Regards,
      Danny Clark
      President
      ENSO Plastics
      4710 E. Falcon Dr. Suite 220
      Mesa, AZ 85215
      office: (623) 242-2387
      skype: dannyclark.enso
      web: http://www.ensoplastics.com

      Making today’s waste, tomorrow’s energy!

      Like

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