We’re way past all the other alternatives.
Put a price on the head of plastic bottles, and guess what? Fewer bottles will find their way into our oceans.
In an ideal world, manufacturers would use fewer single-use plastic formats. I can’t see that happening without significant pressure – here’s why: Delivering products through the manufacturing process in plastic is fast and relatively inexpensive. The expensive part is the investment in machinery, in tooling and equipment, to mould bottles and fill them with liquids. These machines are very expensive to replace, which means manufacturers want their return on investment (ROI) before investing in new manufacturing formats.
Consumers are Kings and could vote for sustainable offerings with their feet; however, convenience – at the point of purchase – is a key driver of a buyer’s behaviour. Take for example many well-known food outlets where it’s sometimes cheaper to buy a meal with a drink than without it. This kind of offer devalues the drink/bottle and adds to its throwaway nature.
An increase in cost could mitigate this; a deposit scheme will increase the retail price of bottles and cans by the cost of running the deposit scheme. But that seems a small price to pay to help our oceans recover. For this to happen we’ll need to change the culture of the soft drinks market and the way we consumers interface with single-use plastics.
Update 12 Jan: Today I received an email from Seth Godin – whose work I admire – in which he says “Culture can be the antidote to selfishness. In fact, it’s the only things that is.“