There must be an “urgent societal shift” towards reuse

Sustainability experts have issued an urgent call for a “seismic cultural shift” towards reuse to solve the “growing pollution and waste crisis”.

A new white paper, published today by BRITA UK, highlights the myriad of environmental and economic benefits that implementing reuse culture across society could bring, but warns of barriers to progress and a need for action.

Unwrapping Reuse Culture provides insights from environmental NGO’s, business leaders and policy makers, and argues that under the current waste model, the crisis cannot be solved and so a rapid and revolutionary approach to reusable products is now imperative.

The current ‘take-make-waste’ model, in which products are made for single use and then disposed of, is fuelling a worldwide pollution crisis that is choking oceans, with 8 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year, according to National Geographic. In the UK, shifting to a circular economy could increase resource productivity by 3% annually, generating £10bn in GVA and 200,000 new jobs by 2030, according to a report by Business in the Community.

If we’re serious about climate change and global warming then reuse is one of the most important concepts we must consider

The white paper outlines the environmental and economic benefits of prioritising reuse, and explains that to tackle the unsustainable amount of waste we produce, recycling should be the last port of call rather than the first. It calls for action in three key areas:

  • Education – The Government’s Sustainability and Climate Change Strategy committed to putting climate focussed modules in the curriculum, and reuse must be front and centre of this to drive forward behaviour change across society.
  • Business – should utilise positive reuse messaging and make reuse both accessible and simple to drive consumer engagement. Reuse must be incorporated into business models and products.
  • Government – climate policy needs to encourage innovation and moving towards a circular economy with reuse at its heart. This will also create a market buoyed by confidence in sustainable solutions.

David Hall, Managing Director of BRITA UK said: “The world faces a deepening environmental crisis, and to tackle it we need urgent and radical action. Having convened a group of leading experts there must be a refocus on reuse, as it not only offers environmental benefits, but presents economic opportunities too.

We need to move away from producing items such as single use plastic bottles, and towards products that can be reused over and over again. We have the potential to take billions of excess waste out of the system every year, but to do that we need reuse to be embedded in businesses, education and policy.”

Barry Sheerman MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sustainable Resource commented: “If we’re serious about climate change and global warming then reuse is one of the most important concepts we must consider. By putting in place sustainable practices like reuse, businesses can be more efficient.”

Natalie Fee, Founder of environmental NGO City to Sea added: “We can’t solve the plastic pollution problem without a rapid and revolutionary approach to reusable and refillable packaging. There are some sources of plastic pollution we could simply ban, France for example has recently banned plastic packaging on some fruit and vegetables, but there are many areas, such as the food-to-go sector, where we need to creatively introduce and normalise reusable packaging as an alternative to polluting single-use plastics.”

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