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Businesses need to change how they think about plastic

The modern era has been dubbed the ‘Plastic Age’ by scientists who have found plastic pollution is now being deposited into the fossil record. An audit of waste plastic conducted by Greenpeace and Break Free from Plastic highlighted the huge extent to which businesses are contributing to our plastic crisis. However, it’s not just the producers of plastic products, or products packaged in plastic, who need to reevaluate their plastic impact. If we are to turn the tide on this global waste crisis, then all businesses need to take stock and take action to ensure that they are both reducing their use of plastic and responsibly managing their plastic waste.

Successful prevention of an ongoing escalation of plastic waste from businesses is going to need multiple approaches to the problem, so that different types of organisation can take the appropriate and most effective type of action. For some this will mean moving away from plastics entirely, whilst for others this will mean making their use of plastic more responsible, putting a focus on reduction, reuse and recycling of all the plastics that their organisation has to interact with. This could be any form of plastic: from products and packaging, to the sauce sachet in the staff canteen or the stationery in the cupboard. For many businesses, this represents an important shift in mindset, as from boardroom to office, to factory floor and anywhere in-between, every company needs to assess how they are contributing waste plastic to the environment and act by integrating policies into their operation which will put them onto a path of continuous improvement.

Due to its position in the economy, plastic is a material which we need to learn to live with in the long term in a manner that does not cause environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and damage to human health. Responsible Plastic Management is an innovative new certification scheme which understands this, and takes a systems approach to helping businesses to minimise their plastic impact. It focuses on building a responsible approach to plastic usage into the very management structure of an organisation, so that careful use and continuous improvement become part of operational norm. It is a highly flexible scheme, designed to work as a stand alone or with other plastics certifications, and relevant for businesses of all sizes, and with all types of plastic usage from those who are minimal plastic consumers to those who are large scale plastic producers.

The scheme is made up of a five step process:

  1. Commitment - creating an organisation wide policy committed to reduction, reuse and recycling of plastics
  2. Measurement – creating a register of all plastics used by the organisation
  3. Action Plan – setting realistic targets for improvement
  4. Results – keeping track of results against targets ongoing
  5. Improvement – committing to a cycle of continuous improvement

Control Union work with Responsible Plastic Management to deliver audits against the scheme’s criteria, and award certification to compliant businesses. Because the scheme is a process and based on continuous improvement, it has a unique benefit in that the audit can be done at any time, no matter where a business is in their progress through the five steps. Support and training are available for businesses to help them along their journey to responsible plastic management, so getting started is as easy as signing-up for membership.

Peter Marshall, Chairperson of Responsible Plastic Management says:

“The Responsible Plastic Management scheme is very practical and pragmatic for organisations as it is process and system focused, similar to ISO 14001. It aims to identify, measure and help remove problem plastic and unnecessary plastic from the organisation's operations and products and to seek better alternatives if available. Plastic must be better managed. We acknowledge that some plastic use is essential where no suitable alternatives are currently available. In these cases plastic should be monitored and managed responsibly. This means that the plastic in a Responsible Plastic Management Certified organisation can then be communicated as both essential and most importantly 'responsibly managed’ from intake to end use.”

Certification against the scheme allows businesses to use the Responsible Plastic Management Certification Mark in their marketing materials, providing customers and stakeholders with valuable evidence of their efforts to reduce plastic wastage across the entirety of their operation.

If you would like to find out more about certification against the Responsible Plastic Management scheme, and how it could be of benefit to your organisation please get in touch on or +44 20 7488 2210. Alternatively sign up to our free webinar covering this and other plastic certifications, taking place on 19th May 2021.

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