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

    The teaching of Palliative Care for future health professionals and its inclusion in Universal Coverage Health

    COP21 Breaking News_12 December: 195 countries adopt the First Universal Climate Agreement

    SPB TV @ MWC14: The TV of the Future

    Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe

    Unemployment is down across the world’s largest economies

    Khashoggi murder trials must public and meet international standards, UN expert urges

    Afghanistan: EU reinforces humanitarian support with €40 million as crisis worsens

    Several crises in one: what effects will COVID-19 have on the global risk landscape?

    These countries are all building brand-new cities

    Coronavirus is creating retirement insecurity. These 10 steps can diffuse the timebomb of an ageing population

    Lessons from dealing with the collapse of Lehman Brothers

    Even in the world’s richest countries, kids might not have what they need to learn at home

    Challenges facing the COVID-19 vaccination campaigns

    5 ways to boost sustainable trade in the world’s poorest countries

    COVID-19 and indigenous peoples in Brazil: a neglected population and the importance of the vaccine

    Syria’s Idlib ‘on the brink’ of a nightmare, humanitarian chiefs warn, launching global solidarity campaign

    7 steps to make electricity systems more resilient to climate risks

    Z, V or ‘Nike swoosh’ – what shape will the COVID-19 recession take?

    How AI is shaping financial services

    Deadly swine fever threatens Asia, UN agriculture agency warns, urging regional collaboration

    Reading this alone? Recent surveys reveal the curious truth about loneliness

    OECD survey reveals many people unhappy with public services and benefits

    The ethical dilemmas of medicine

    Girls still being treated as aliens in medicine in the 21st century

    MEPs call for the protection of fundamental values in the EU and worldwide

    6 women of history who shaped the world, from a Hawaiian queen to a Chinese empress

    Asylum Seeker Accommodation and Mental Health

    Around 600,000 Afghan children face death through malnutrition without emergency funds: UNICEF

    10 expert predictions for the next decade in Chinese AI

    Developed and developing financial markets are more similar than you think. Here’s why

    Von der Leyen on Europe Day: What does Europe mean to me and why is solidarity more valid than ever

    The EU prepares for the end of LIBOR: the Commission welcomes the agreement reached between the European Parliament and the Council on financial benchmarks

    Multilateralism must weather ‘challenges of today and tomorrow’ Guterres tells Paris Peace Forum

    China-EU Trade and Economic Relations in Numbers

    Parliament boosts consumer rights online and offline

    If this is Globalization 4.0, what were the other three?

    Towards a stronger and more resilient Schengen area

    Dreaming of China

    Germany and Europe prepare for Trump’s America

    As Alan Turing makes the £50 note, how do countries design their currencies?

    Is continuous sanctioning the way to resolve the Ukrainian crisis?

    EU Summit/Migration: Parliament calls for joint solutions based on solidarity

    FROM THE FIELD: Free tutorials in Mali, ‘a life-saver’ for Fatouma

    Why forensic science is in crisis and how we can fix it

    Commission’s feeble response to financial benchmarks fraud

    How the US should react to the pandemic, according to Bill Gates

    EU Charter of Fundamental Rights marks its 10th anniversary

    Here are three ways Africa’s youth are defeating corruption

    daniela-runchi-jade-president__

    A Sting Exclusive: “Education in Europe, fostering skills development inside and outside the school system”

    EU budget: the Common Agricultural Policy beyond 2020

    Europe divided: 30 years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall

    What the future holds for the EU – China relations?

    UN launches new fund to advance sustainable development in Aral Sea region

    COP21 Breaking News_09 December: List of Recent Climate Funding Announcements

    Human rights defenders, too often left defenceless themselves – UN expert

    Health worker´s empathy and their power to change the world

    Eurozone: Inflation plunge to 0.4% in July may trigger cataclysmic developments

    UN spotlights digitization of audiovisual archives to preserve human history on World Day

    State aid: Commission approves €1.1 billion Polish scheme to further support companies affected by coronavirus outbreak

    The feminisation of medicine and persistence of stereotypes

    More Stings?

    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

    %d bloggers like this: