Ethical Living: Plastic - Lose It or Re-Use It?


About This Report

Mar 2018

Plastic, an influential part of modern society, is under scrutiny for its polluting presence in the global environment. There are visible and invisible pollutants. Greater awareness and growing ethical concerns about plastic waste is evident with circular thinking initiatives to design out surplus plastics, improve recovery and re-use apparent. Current pressures are an opportunity to tackle plastic waste and advance towards zero-litter. Mindful consumption of plastic is a global responsibility.

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Ethical Living: Plastic - Lose It or Re-Use It?

Plastic, important contributor to modern society

Plastic holds an influential role in shaping modern society, evident through its widespread application and growth in use from across medicine and construction to packaging for everyday consumer purchases. It is hard to imagine living without plastic

.…but its pollution weighs heavy as societal concern

Concern about the sustainability of plastic is rising, elevated by knowledge of the huge volumes of plastic waste amassing in the environment, garnering much attention across the media with governments, NGOs and industry announcing initiatives targeting plastic.

Major users are major polluters

Plastic consumption and pollution levels are highest in populous developing areas of Asia and Africa where there is a lack of public awareness of the global harm that disposing of waste in local land and waterways has and lack of formal waste infrastructure.

Single-use plastic: visible and invisible

Because of its short lifespan and noticeable presence as litter, single-use plastic is under close scrutiny. Recycling and re-cyclability pose concerns for consumers with action sought. Out-of-home consumption presents challenges on recycling, indicating need for improved recovery. There are also important invisible pollutants to address.

Re-think on plastic is called for: be circular and committed

A global value chain re-think on plastic, from design through to recovery to re-use also presents opportunities. Progress is being made on recovery and recycling and with alternatives. There is more to do, to assail the volumes of waste. A circular economy philosophy is part of this, so that plastic can have multiple lives. Advances require commitment, from manufacturers’ designs to consumers’ recycling behaviour.

A zero-waste society, the desired goal

A zero-waste society is the goal. Reaching this through mindful use and infrastructure investment can procures sustainable and economic gain. Greater recovery, recycling and re-use are key to improve plastic’s eco-credentials. Responsible handling is a global duty,of governments, NGOs, corporate players and citizens, for the protection of our planet.


Megatrend analysis at Euromonitor International
Megatrend framework
Ethical Living is one of our eight focus megatrends
Key findings
Plastic’s influence in shaping modern society
Widespread presence across the packaging landscape
The top three plastics in the grocery aisle today
Plastic protects…
…and saves resources
Recognition that there is work to do on waste pollution

Pressures on Plastic

Plastic industry’s green credentials under sharp scrutiny
From Blue Planet dawns a public outcry for plastic-free
Single-use plastic is primary target of ocean waste concerns
UN Environment Assembly resolution calls for action on marine litter
Populous developing countries are biggest polluters of plastic
Over 50% of plastic waste originates from five countries
China’s landfill restriction: a stimulus to advance recovery?
European policymakers launch strategies targeting plastic waste

Visible Plastics

Plastic is a regular offender amongst ocean waste
Are bottles a casualty of an on-the-go, throw-away culture?
Refillables and municipal sources for on-the-go consumers
Plastics’ recovery and recycling rates are improving
Plastics recyclability
Alternatives to virgin plastic: use with care
World Without Waste by The Coca Cola Company
Reverse Vending Machine by Incon Green Singapore
So Delicious in plant bottles by WhiteWave Foods

Visible plastics

Move to eradicate single-use carrier bags
Tesco’s bag for life
Fast food plastics that are far from fast and easy to recycle
The GBP 0.05 Levy Trial by Starbucks
Ryanair going plastic free
Iceland Foods Ltd
Single-use plastic straws grasping at straws
“Greener” alternatives not a game changer

Invisible Plastics

Plastic is also an unseen offender in waste terms
Microbeads ban and potential domino effect on other microplastics
Ronald Britton

Invisible plastics

Are microfibres the new microbeads?


Waste concern lends gravitas to the circular economy model
Other disposable plastics to be mindful of
Living with plastic for a sustainable future