A major outdoor industry initiative has unveiled sector-wide proposals for taking serious steps to address the issue of single use plastics. The EUROPEAN OUTDOOR GROUP (EOG) has published the SINGLE USE PLASTICS PROJECT (SUPP) Report which recommends a system for removing and properly caring for protective plastic (poly) bags before they end up in incinerators, landfills or are sent for export.
In the outdoor industry, by far the largest proportion of single use plastics in the supply chain is in the form of product poly bags for clothing and equipment. Launched by the EOG in 2018, SUPP set out to research and assess the impact of these bags and to work swiftly towards making a meaningful impact on the problem.
The report covers the breadth of the project’s history, including research in 2019, pilot testing of solutions from the end of 2019 until 2021 and the implementation of the agreed system that will begin this year. Progress has only been possible thanks to the willingness of all organisations involved to share information, on the understanding that issues of the scale of single use plastics can only be tackled through effective pre-competitive cooperation.
The detailed report includes an overview of the issue, summary of the research and the science surrounding the available materials, an assessment of the current limitations and opportunities within municipal recycling systems, results of the pilot project and recommendations for a new system to implement throughout the industry.
Since its launch, SUPP has been led by the EOG’s Scott Nelson and, more recently, Dr. Verity Hardy. Together, they have been working closely with the association’s CSR and sustainability department, other members of the wider team plus partners and stakeholders throughout the industry. The report is a companion piece to the Poly Bag Standards document published by SUPP in July 2021.
Scott Nelson said, “We established the baseline by researching the scale and proportion of the problem within the industry and closely following poly bags from manufacturing through to waste management. This was followed by assessing potential solutions and material options, researching the ecological impacts of our plastic packaging against alternatives, and following the end-of-life scenarios for poly bags.
“We were only able to do all of this so comprehensively and effectively because every organisation involved was fully committed to the project and was prepared to share insights and valuable data across the group.”
The SUPP Report highlights how the research phase of the project established that the use of alternative materials to single use plastics tends to shift the environmental impacts rather than mitigate them and this often presents new and increasingly problematic negative consequences.
These insights were vital in informing the nature of the possible solutions that SUPP piloted and is now proposing for adoption across the sector. He added, “It became increasingly clear that we need to view this as a systemic rather than materials issue, and therefore the industry-wide solutions that we propose in the report are clearly systems-based.”