Want to stop plastic pollution? Start by supporting your local zero-waste business

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Christian Kaufholz, Affiliated Programs and Knowledge Development Manager, World Economic Forum


  • The zero-waste movement has persevered throughout the pandemic, despite weathering significant challenges.
  • Governments, businesses and consumers are increasingly realizing that recycling is not enough to address plastic pollution, and more action is needed at the upstream level.
  • Three innovators – Muuse, MIWA and Algramo – are disrupting business-as-usual with their reuse models.
  • Can the zero-waste movement survive the COVID-19 pandemic? Despite a statement from over 125 scientists last June attesting to the safely of reusable products, things looked shaky. As COVID-19 infections soared, states and countries like Maine, New York and the UK suspended bans on single-use plastics. Starbucks temporarily stopped accepting personal cups at its stores. The global plastic packaging market is projected to grow from $909 billion in 2019 to $1012 billion by 2021 – even though a staggering 86% of that packaging is never recycled.

    But the stumbles were – eventually – followed by progress. At the highest levels of government, priorities began to reset. The UK issued a resounding endorsement for a global treaty on plastic pollution. EU countries like Germany and Greece have pledged to phase out single-use plastics by summer. And in China, one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters, the ban on disposable bags and straws is already in effect.

    Increasingly, the world is realizing that recycling alone will not save us from plastic pollution. The vast amounts of plastic waste that endanger life in the ocean and on land must be tackled at all points of the supply chain, by every actor. Governments are adopting new policies and regulations. Companies are redesigning products to be sustainable, not disposable. Innovative businesses across the world are determined to design waste out of everyday products, and consumers are coming onboard.

    Here are just three examples of innovative start-ups that are actively reducing humanity’s plastics footprint through championing the circular economy.

    Convenience without the waste

    Takeaway cups and containers are convenient. They’re disposable. And they’re a microcosm of a larger culture – a “take-use-dispose” mindset that prioritises generating unsustainable amounts of new materials.

    In cities around the world, creative businesses like Muuse have designed waste out of takeaway culture, while keeping the convenience factor intact. “We eliminate disposables by creating a network of cafes where consumers can collect and return reusable cups and containers,” says Brian Reilly, Founder and CEO of Muuse. “In Singapore and Hong Kong, where the effects of COVID have been less keenly felt, our business hasn’t been affected much, luckily. In fact, COVID pushed us to create a new opportunity – we’ve rolled out a nationwide food delivery service with reusable food boxes.”

    Smart packaging, smart results

    Want to make a zero-waste purchase for your home? Increasingly, brands and retailers are tapping into technology to sell goods in refillable, reusable packaging that’s easy to use.

    At the retail level, stores in Prague, Paris and Switzerland have enlisted the start-up MIWA to install smart, hygienic shelves and food with dispensers. They have created a safe way to dispense both food and non-food products from MIWA’s reusable capsules, which are then cleaned and shipped to be filled again by producers and brands. On top of that, consumers can dispense goods into or fill up their reusable containers with a diverse range of products like rice, nuts and dried goods – a process that eliminates any need for single-use packaging from the start.

    “MIWA provides producers and retailers technology to sell goods in reusable packaging, allowing for a high hygienic standard for in-store operations and products’ full digital traceability,” says Ivana Sobolíková, Impact and Finance Director at MIWA. “Though we had to reschedule some installations, the need for more sustainable packaging grew stronger, and our focus on high standards in hygiene has brought us new opportunities. MIWA has been launched in Paris and is expanding in Switzerland.”

    Revolutionizing household products and food purchases

    When it comes to home deliveries, the company Algramo has also revolutionised the way people buy household products and food. In both emerging markets like Santiago and megacities like New York, its app allows customers to order the exact amount that they need, delivered straight to their smart, reusable packaging at home.

    “Throughout the pandemic, we have seen an increase in demand for our refill services and IoT connected vending machines,” says Brian Bauer, Head of Circular Economy and Alliances at Algramo. “We are now dispensing homecare, personal care and pet food in a manner that decouples packaging waste from consumption. This past September we launched a pilot in New York City, our Jakarta pilot is launching in a couple of weeks’ time, and we are excited to be looking for a retail partner for our upcoming London pilot.”

    What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the ocean?

    Our oceans cover 70% of the world’s surface and account for 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. We can’t have a healthy future without healthy oceans – but they’re more vulnerable than ever because of climate change and pollution.

    Tackling the grave threats to our oceans means working with leaders across sectors, from business to government to academia.

    The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with the World Resources Institute, convenes the Friends of Ocean Action, a coalition of leaders working together to protect the seas. From a programme with the Indonesian government to cut plastic waste entering the sea to a global plan to track illegal fishing, the Friends are pushing for new solutions. https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1107578509822697472&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.weforum.org%2Fagenda%2F2021%2F03%2Fwant-to-stop-plastic-pollution-start-by-supporting-your-local-zero-waste-businesses%2F&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px

    Climate change is an inextricable part of the threat to our oceans, with rising temperatures and acidification disrupting fragile ecosystems. The Forum runs a number of initiatives to support the shift to a low-carbon economy, including hosting the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, who have cut emissions in their companies by 9%.

    Is your organisation interested in working with the World Economic Forum? Find out more here.

    These are just three examples of innovative businesses that have successfully designed waste out of everyday products. Simple, convenient solutions like these are changing the way people consume every single day – and they make me hopeful that we are one step closer to a world free of plastic pollution.

    A condensed version of this editorial was originally published in the print version of The Guardian as part of the 2021 Sustainable Packaging campaign.

    the sting Milestones

    Featured Stings

    Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

    These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

    How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

    Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

    Art has the power to change the world, says this renowned Iranian muralist

    European Commission welcomes the positive assessment about how it has managed the EU budget

    New seat projections for the next European Parliament EU28

    FROM THE FIELD: Liberia boosts efforts to guard against rising seas

    3 ways to protect your mental health during – and after – COVID-19

    Protecting the ocean is key to fighting climate change

    MEPs call for binding 2030 targets for materials use and consumption footprint

    More than one million sexually transmitted infections occur every day: WHO

    Brexit: visa-free access to the EU for UK nationals and to the UK for Europeans

    ‘Good enough’ global cooperation is key to our survival

    5 key themes for reforming the EU, as elections loom

    Mental Health: Role of the individual for their well-being in the pandemic

    EU leaders prepare timetable and structure for EU budget negotiations

    Whale populations are slowly recovering – this is why

    EU’s VAT system further equipped to tackle fraud in e-commerce and to help small businesses grow

    State aid: Commission approves €380 million German rescue aid to Condor

    Member States agree to Commission proposal to support Irish beef producers impacted by market uncertainty

    Got the blues? Head for some green spaces

    This is how Copenhagen plans to go carbon-neutral by 2025

    Meet Cipta: the comic book hero using her powers to tackle bullying in schools

    Further reforms will promote a stronger and more inclusive Hungarian economy

    UN chief appeals for calm as Mali presidential election draws to a close

    Hatred ‘a threat to everyone’, urges Guterres calling for global effort to end xenophobia and ‘loathsome rhetoric’

    Health inequalities in the 21st century

    Here’s why infrastructure will make or break our response to climate change

    Autonomous weapons that kill must be banned, insists UN chief

    Mobile Technology saving lives, the way forward

    Sassoli to EU institutions: “Be brave on EU recovery plan”

    Rule of law in Hungary: Parliament calls on the EU to act

    Mental health: fighting the hidden pandemic

    5 key concepts for blockchain newbies

    Do doctors need to know their patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity?

    On World Health Day, new report says the world needs 6 million more nurses

    More women than ever before are running for political office in the US

    Climate change: cutting the good by the root?

    Creative Europe: 30 years of support to European films and cultural and creative media works

    Commission proposes to purchase up to 300 million additional doses of BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine

    What can the military teach us about keeping the lights on?

    Venezuela migrant crisis begs a ‘coherent, predictable and harmonized’ response: UNHCR

    Young people are not a nameless, faceless mass. So why do we treat them as such?

    Commission presents far-reaching anti-tax evasion measures

    Getting people with disabilities into work requires data

    Why cybersecurity should be standard due diligence for investors

    UN chief hails Libyan leaders’ agreement to hold general election

    UN chief appeals to G7 leaders for ‘strong commitment’ and political will to tackle climate emergency

    Illegal fishing: EU lifts Taiwan’s yellow card following reforms

    Vulnerable children face ‘dire and dangerous’ situation on Greek island reception centres, UNICEF warns

    To win combat against HIV worldwide, ‘knowledge is power’, says UNAIDS report

    Antitrust: Commission consults stakeholders on guidance for national courts when handling disclosure information

    How digital is your country? Europe needs Digital Single Market to boost its digital performance

    New neighbours: Could Venus really be home to alien life?

    Coronavirus: Commission proposes €4.5 million to support over 5,000 dismissed tourism workers or self-employed in Estonia

    Moving from a promise made in Sweden towards hope for peace in Yemen

    An alternative to the future of antimicrobial therapy

    Here’s how the EU is doing on gender equality

    FROM THE FIELD: Enslaved Guatemalan indigenous women wait for reparations

    UN boosts humanitarian appeal to help tackle Zimbabwe’s ‘worst-ever’ hunger crisis

    Norway is returning Easter Island artefacts to Chile (Will Britain ever return the marbles to Greece?)

    As the year closes out, UN political chief talks the art of diplomacy – and crises to watch in 2019.

    Refugees in Greece: MEPs demand solidarity, warn about impact of health crisis

    More Stings?

    Advertising

    Speak your Mind Here

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s