Plastic’s history is a short one, having only been in common usage for the last hundred years. But it has left an indelible imprint on the earth’s lands and seas. Ironically, this man-made-material was created to counter humans’ overreliance, and thus harm, on the Earth’s finite natural resources, which were ruthlessly exploited during the Industrial Revolution. Now, our overreliance on plastic has placed excessive strain, and pain, on our planet, her environment and animals.
The plastic problem
Plastic has revolutionised our lives: from the clothes we wear, the bags we use, the phones at which we stare, to the credit and debit cards we tap — plastic is all-pervasive. But that all-pervasive and convenient nature of plastic has lent itself to be a disposable material. According to National Geographic, 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic has been produced to date, of which only 9 per cent has been recycled. The vast majority is used once or twice, ending up in sprawling landfills or spilling into the environment. Both on land and in the sea, plastic pollution is causing suffering to our fellow inhabitants: it is estimated that nearly 700 species have been affected by plastic.
Distressing photos of animals, marine life in particular, caught in plastic bags, entangled in plastic fishing nets, or trapped in plastic bottles are becoming all too common. And plastic will remain on Earth far beyond any living being’s lifespan: it is estimated that it will take, a minimum, of 400 years for plastic to break down. This list of alarming statistics and facts could go on, but the bottom line is that plastic is permanently damaging the world around us. But with every wave lapping the shore and enveloping another carelessly dropped plastic bottle, the tide is turning.
Turning the tide
Plastic has been a growing concern since the 1970s, but it was Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet that placed it on the global agenda. More and more of us are aware of the part we play in its impact on the world. And businesses and entrepreneurs, aware of the need to keep up with consumers’ concerns, are cottoning on.
I caught up with one such eco-conscious entrepreneur, Raj Sharma. Raj stated that it was around five years ago when he became acutely aware of the plastic pollution problem and wanted to do something about it. His solution? Recup Ltd, a UK company that produces reusable, recyclable plastic cups, targeting sporting events and festivals where the use of single-use plastic is high. Recup has two key missions: the first is to reduce the amount of plastic waste at such events by encouraging people to reuse their cups, or place unwanted used cups in strategically placed recycling bins at the venue or festival. The cups are collected after the event, taken off to an industrial unit, cleaned, and stored away for next time. Such cups can be used up to 100 times, after which they are recycled.
Its second mission is to provide consumers with a high-quality reusable cup. When Raj looked at what was available in the market, he said that there were ‘no cups of a high quality’. He rightly pointed out that ‘throwaway cups … are a bit flimsy and can crack’ and that negatively impacts on the drinking experience. He was the first to create a shatter-proof cup in various designs and styles, altering and adapting the product to suit the occasion. It is a winning formula for the environment and ‘… from a consumer’s point of view, it is much nicer to drink from a sturdy plastic, but reusable cup’.
Recup has only been in operation for two years but it has already built up an impressive clientele, including Emirates Stadium, London Stadium, Lords and Ascot. Most recently, it partnered with Budweiser who, in turn, are partnering with Pride in London.
I asked Raj about the reception his product has received. Recup’s latest sporting event, Ascot, was a ‘tremendous success’ as ‘everyone is now buying into not using single-use plastic’. And now Pride in London will be their biggest event to date. Last year, more than one million people attended, and more are expected to attend this year: brilliant exposure for such a young company to disseminate such an important message.
And what about future partnerships? While Raj couldn’t give specific details, he stated, confidently, that Recup is working on ‘one hundred plus accounts’ and is ‘going into some of the biggest festival and bar companies to roll this out’. The high and growing demand demonstrates the value and importance that multi-million-pound businesses and high-profile events are placing on sustainability; realising the power they have to make a change from ‘on top’. It also helps to change consumer behaviour by creating an environment where it is easy for consumers to act more sustainably. A behaviour, I hope, that will be carried into other aspects of consumers’ lives.
When speaking with Raj, his genuine passion for reducing plastic waste is clear but he also has the customer at the heart of the solution too, as is evidenced by Recup’s two key missions. His product is kind to the environment but also enhances the drinking experience. The result? Customers feel good when using the product.
The individual and collective bringing about change
It can be all too easy to feel overwhelmed, helpless and anxious by the plastic pollution problem. But we can, as individuals, help by recycling household plastic goods, being more conscious of the products we buy and supporting eco-friendly businesses, such as Raj’s, which address the problem on a collective scale. Such an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit provides a solution which addresses our overreliance on a material that has, for too long, damaged our planet.
To find out more about Recup Ltd, please visit http://recupuk.co.uk/