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Nov 5, 2019 / Richard Hall

Plastic in perspective

The one thing missing from most of the current debate on plastic is perspective. I’ve written about this before, but feel prompted to do so again by some plain talking common sense from Coca-Cola’s Chief Executive James Quincey.

He was speaking to my colleague Duane Stanford as Executive Editor of Beverage Digest and will also be addressing our New York Future Smarts Conference on 9 December. Asked whether recycling or materials technology are the solution to plastic waste, he said:

“Both … require the same initial step, which is collection.

“A circular economy on plastic has a lower carbon footprint than aluminium or glass.

“The first thing you want is to be in plastics that have an intrinsic value … they can be reused or recycled. Many forms can’t and we want to get out of those.

“With no new technology, if we collect the bottles, we can make new bottles. This problem can be solved without new technology.

“There are some new technologies that are going to make recycling even easier.

“If someone could come up with a way of having a biodegradable plastic bottle that didn’t just break down into smaller bits of plastic, but truly, truly broke down, that would be interesting.

“The lowest carbon footprint will still be the idea of collecting the plastic back and making new plastic out of it.

“It’s not just about waste, which is the visible problem, it’s ultimately going to be about carbon footprint.”

Such clarity is rare.

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