The petrol-powered motor was first invented in 1885, however, it took until 1913 to become mass produced and cemented as a cornerstone of daily life. The replacement of the horse and carriage with the car was revolutionary. However, the development of the infrastructure to ensure cars would, for example, always be within driving distance of a petrol station took a considerable amount of time and investment. The car, no matter how revolutionary, would be redundant without the infrastructure to ensure the driver can access petrol stations and garages.
In a similar manner, since the public turned their backs on single-use plastic, innovation to bridge the gap that plastic will leave in its wake has thrived. Re-imagining plastic, and a world without it, has caused a global shift that has prompted an analysis of redundant practices and investment in innovative solutions. But as demonstrated by the introduction of the car, an innovation can only flourish if there is an infrastructure to enable it.
Traditionally, recycling initiatives have largely focused on plastic, but plastic recycling is not a catch-all solution to this global crisis. For example, most flexible packaging is too complex, contaminated by food, and too lightweight to be recycled. As a result, out of the 400,000 tonnes of plastic packaging that is used annually in the UK, only four per cent gets recycled. This is a deeply worrying statistic given the decades the UK recycling system has dedicated to plastic. Even if recycling were a viable option for flexible packaging, which it is not, recycling plastic still doesn’t solve the issue of plastic – it only delays its final disposal in landfill.