DIV18/71: Reducing Reliance on Plastics (16 October 2019)

Issue Date: 16 October 2019
Ref: DIV18/71

Reducing Reliance on Plastics
By Deborah Bland, Senior Sector Marketing Manager, Diversey, UK & Ireland

One of the biggest sustainability talking points over the past year has been the use of plastics in packaging. The cleaning industry is not immune to these discussions but there are areas where we can help reduce the use and impact of plastics.

Reducing Use: smaller packs use less plastics and other materials. Adopting ultra concentrates – and adding water at the point of use - can reduce overall plastics consumption. Depending on the system used this can reduce packaging material by up to 98.5% compared to ready-to-use products. For example, one container of a market-leading ultra-concentrate can replace around 280 ready-to-use products for the same job. This saves over 40kg of plastics that no longer needs to be manufactured, transported, stored or recycled. 

Reduced Wastage: closed-loop ultra-concentrate dosing and dilution systems greatly reduce chemical and packaging waste by preventing chemical over-use. Diversey found users overuse chemicals by six times the recommended dilution rate when using open ‘glug-glug’ containers.

Recycling: much of the plastics in cleaning product packaging can be recycled or reused. Manufacturers are constantly improving designs to make packs easier to recycle. However, recycling is dependent on local infrastructure to collect, sort, and recover packaging materials. These localised limitations mean no manufacturer can guarantee its packaging materials will be recycled everywhere. 

Raw Materials: while desirable it is often impractical to use recycled plastics for packaging because the standard and quality of the materials being used is difficult to guarantee and can be inconsistent. Using new or “virgin” plastics helps manufacturers maintain the quality and consistency to meet regulatory requirements for air transport or particular applications. Nevertheless, packaging made this way can itself often be recycled.

Progressive manufacturers – and many end user organisations – are adopting lifecycle thinking into their businesses to help minimise potential negative impacts associated with packaging. This includes utilising sustainability scorecards or similar techniques that identify opportunities to improve packaging during material selection, manufacturing, use, and eventual recycling.

The use of plastics is part of the wider sustainability trend that also includes saving water, conserving energy and preventing waste. None of these can be considered in isolation and we will be looking at some of them in future columns.