Today, Generation Y (from 19 to 34 years old) has become the main consumer, setting trends: more than 80% of millennials are interested in preserving the environment and prefer companies that share this interest. Global manufacturers are forced to change in accordance with the eco-trend and solve the problem of using plastic and recycling

All against plastic

Since the industrial revolution, mankind has become accustomed to the production of organic waste: food, paper, textile and chemical. They are easy to dispose of – you can bury, burn or even throw them into the ocean. Widespread plastic production began only in 1950, and environmentalists began to sound the alarm and talk about recycling in the 70s.

Today, pulp and plastic plants annually emit approximately equal amounts of CO2 (up to 0.5 billion tons) into the atmosphere. However, the decomposition period of organic waste takes an average of 5 years, while plastic is required up to 200. According to the study, more than 80% of garbage fall into the oceans from land. If paper, metals, product residues and textiles drown or decompose quickly, then lightweight plastic remains to drift to the surface.

In people’s perception, plastic is a harmful material. But in fact, it is safe for humans. There are seven main varieties of plastic, the products of which are accompanied by appropriate marking. It is only important to use plastic objects in accordance with their purpose (for example, do not heat PET above 60 degrees).

It is economically profitable for global manufacturers to fight plastic: states reduce tax rates for green businesses, and eco-activity allows them to gain loyalty of millennials (87% of them prefer to use the services of green companies).

The fight against plastic is becoming a powerful marketing tool that helps manufacturers earn money.

Who built into the green trend

In 2018, the world’s largest food & fmcg manufacturers (H&M, Unilever, PepsiCo, L’Oreal, Nestle and Coca-Cola – more than 250 in total) signed the Global Commitment agreement. By 2025, the signatory companies pledged to increase to 25% the number of products made from recycled materials.

So, Nestle has created a division of Nestlé Waters to develop biodegradable containers that will dissolve when released into seawater. The retailer Walmart implements the campaign against garbage in several steps: forecasting the volume of products thrown out through it solutions, sending spoiled products to compost, stimulating consumer demand for goods with expiring expiration dates, replacing disposable plastic bags with dense reusable and textile ones.

One of the main producers of mixed waste (plastic + paper) is coffee houses: in the world, 600 billion disposable coffee cups are sent to the landfill annually. Starbucks accounts for 1%, or 6 billion cups annually. Costa Coffee (UK main market) accounts for approximately 0.5 billion cups per year. Now coffee networks are urging consumers to use reusable cups and thermoses. So the buyer gets coffee at a discount, and the company saves on making coffee cups.

Fashion retail accounts for 14% of global waste (textiles). The fashion industry annually sends 92 million tons of clothing to landfills. In 2018, world leaders in the fashion industry and sports equipment (Nike, ASOS, Gap, Adidas, etc.) joined the Circular Fashion System Commitment movement, taking responsibility for increasing the production of recycled materials. Nike intends to manufacture products from recycled old shoes, and by 2024 Adidas will switch to the production of shoes only from recycled plastic.

The real situation in the “trash market”

According to the World Bank, 2 billion tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) is produced annually in the world, and only 10% falls on plastic, of which only 3% falls into the oceans.

The problem of garbage pollution does exist, but its cause is improper disposal technology and mixed collection, rather than plastic waste.

The policy of progressive countries is aimed at tightening legislation for producers and improving the quality of waste collection. Since 2002, unsorted waste has been banned in France, and a ban on the disposal of organic waste has been introduced in the Netherlands – this increases the efficiency of separate collection with subsequent composting.

The concept of a closed-loop economy is gaining popularity (resources are reintroduced into circulation after the disposal phase). In the USA, 17% of garbage is recycled, and the Environmental Protection Agency intends to bring this figure to 25%. Europe is on the same path. For example, Sweden uses garbage to produce energy and heat and does it so successfully that its own garbage is no longer enough. Now Sweden purchases garbage from Norway, the UK, Germany and other countries.

As for Russia, the domestic market for the collection and disposal of garbage is extremely conservative and closed, and the state does not provide any preferences for businesses that would stimulate it towards environmentally friendly behavior.

Moreover, the Ministry of Natural Resources proposed to introduce the complete disposal of goods and packaging and assign retailers responsibility for the implementation of the initiative. However, the business is not ready for this – only 1.5% of the 800 retail chains agree with the new rules. The rest insist on a phased transition and the introduction of benefits.

No matter how closed the Russian market may be, young projects come into it aimed at solving local problems. For example, Ubirator collects and removes secondary business waste (cardboard, glass, plastic) to collection points with subsequent disposal. And the City Sanitary provides special containers for the collection and transportation of garbage for recycling.

In Russia, garbage is practically not recycled and because of this it accumulates at an astronomical rate: landfills occupy 7 million hectares of land (the area increases by 0.4 million hectares annually). About 35-40 million MSW were canned at them (only 6% of them are plastic). Due to the undeveloped garbage infrastructure, most of the solid waste is sent to landfills. Less than 2% of garbage is incinerated, only about 4% is recycled. Rare wastetech projects try to solve this problem. For example, the Sborbox aggregator collects MSW from the public. In the application, anyone can mark on the map the point where the collected garbage was left: at the house, apartment or entrance. Special company employees will come to pick it up. The company promises that recyclables will be recycled.

It is worth noting that only 2.53 million tons went through recycling in 2018. Today in the country there are only 243 solid waste processing complexes and 53 sorting complexes. At the same time, a culture of separate waste collection is just beginning to take shape in Russia, without which high-quality sorting and recycling is impossible.

Business needs a green trend

Companies whose principles are based on informed production and consumption enjoy the greatest loyalty among millennials. It is they who form the consumer request for the eco-responsibility of the manufacturer. Western companies follow the consumer’s request – they are actively moving the green trend. The environmental component has become an important part of any business.

Russian companies are just starting to integrate into the eco-trend – rethought consumption in the domestic market is just beginning to take shape. However, while in progressive countries the government supports manufacturers and reduces the tax rate, in Russia, for the sake of its own marketing benefits, business is forced to independently create conditions for green production.