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← Single-use plastics and discovering the true value of things | Emmanuel Auberger | TEDxHECParis

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  1. The problem of single-use plastic
  2. has reached the headlines
    everywhere in the world in 2018.
  3. We have all seen these campaigns
    and images from WWF.

  4. We have all experienced
    open-air landfills of plastic.
  5. Plastic packaging poses
    environmental issues and health concerns
  6. that need to be addressed.
  7. NGOs part of Break Free From Plastic
    have identified who to blame.
  8. These corporations pass on the blame.
  9. They claim to have always
    supported recycling
  10. and that lack of education
    is the problem.
  11. I think we are all to blame
    for our single-use plastic addiction.
  12. Brands are offering what consumers want:
  13. more convenience, cheaper prices,
  14. no bother of future consequences.
  15. Pushed by all this sudden attention,
  16. the plastic industry is coming up
    with its alternative.
  17. First, let's recycle more.
  18. Do you think that your plastic package
    that you put in the right bin
  19. will be recycled?
  20. I'm so sorry to tell you that,
    unlike glass, metals, or paper,
  21. just 5% of plastic has a second life,
  22. that is to say, is recycled
    to make another usable material,
  23. and even a smaller percentage
    to actually remake a plastic package
  24. in a closed loop.
  25. The reason?
  26. Plastic is not easy to recycle,
  27. and it is not economically viable,
  28. because plastic is very cheap.
  29. The only package that has some potential
    to become another bottle
  30. is this type of transparent PET.
  31. Today, they claim it can contain
    50% recycled material,
  32. and they target 100% by 2025.
  33. Okay?
  34. Great.
  35. But what took so long
    for this industry to start moving?
  36. And who will pay
    the extra cost of the bottle?
  37. The plastic industry is also coming up
    with another great idea:
  38. Let's make plastic
    bio-sourced and compostable.
  39. They're offering
    this type of dish and cup.
  40. When you read the small
    print of this dish,
  41. you find out it's 94% cellulose
  42. and 6% mysterious plastic components.
  43. This cup is made of a plastic
    called PLA, out of corn starch.
  44. You think, "Great idea.
  45. I can throw away my packaging
    with the rest of my biowaste."
  46. Watch out.
  47. This is only viable
    for industrial compost.
  48. It will not decompose
    in your garden compost or in the landfill.
  49. "Well," you think,
  50. "at least this package,
    put in the right bin,
  51. will be recycled or composted."
  52. Watch out.
  53. PLA contaminates
    the plastic recycling system,
  54. and recyclers absolutely do not want
    to see it among other types of plastic.
  55. Okay, at least this plastic
    is not made of fossil fuel.
  56. Watch out again.
  57. Many environmental organizations
    consider this as worse.
  58. If we need agricultural
    resources for packaging,
  59. this is only going
    to accelerate deforestation.
  60. So you get the point.
  61. This is not such a good idea
    at this time, and for containers.
  62. Maybe in the future.
  63. And for bags and films,
    compostable plastic is a viable option.
  64. Whatever the current limits,
    all innovations are welcome.
  65. Waste management
    refers to the three "Rs":
  66. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  67. Because plastic is a powerful industry,
  68. and recycling a booming
    business opportunity,
  69. a lot of private and public money
    is put into developing recycling.
  70. The two other "Rs" of waste management,
  71. Reduce and Reuse,
  72. attract far less attention and money.
  73. So let's explore reduce.
  74. There are many great
    initiatives to talk about.
  75. I just selected three for tonight.
  76. The city of Capannori, in Tuscany,
    pioneered 20 years ago
  77. a large education program
    for its citizens to reduce their waste,
  78. with amazing results:
  79. 38% less waste in just 10 years
  80. and recycling over 80% of it.
  81. Inspired by this success,
  82. hundreds of cities
    in the world are following.
  83. Another good example of reduce:
  84. Biocoop, the largest
    bio food chain in France,
  85. decided in 2016
    to stop selling bottled water
  86. because it is, and I quote,
    "an ecological aberration."
  87. They rightly consider that in France,
    water from the tap is safe enough
  88. or easy to filter.
  89. Biocoop pushes further
    and very recently announced
  90. that they will open the first
    zero-waste supermarket in Paris.
  91. Some activists are even ready to fight.
  92. They launch "plastic attacks,"
  93. leaving all unnecessary packaging
    in the supermarkets,
  94. raising awareness among shoppers,
  95. and pushing stores
    and suppliers towards reduce.
  96. Reduce is by definition almost free,
    so do your own little plastic attacks.
  97. Choose the least packaged products.
  98. Buy big capacities,
  99. non-single-serve units
    of yogurt, for instance.
  100. Choose the slightly damaged box of pasta
    that most consumers won't take.
  101. Our obsession with zero defects
    and single-serve
  102. also has a huge environmental impact.
  103. Now, Reuse,
  104. a real step towards a circular economy.
  105. When I talk about reusable packaging,
    mainly returnable glass bottles,
  106. everybody remembers using them
    and how great it was,
  107. from the elders who remember the milkman
  108. to the travelers who have seen countries
  109. that still reuse glass bottles
    on a big scale.
  110. Also, new initiatives are on their way -
  111. supermarkets with plastic-free aisles:
  112. Loop, the first online supermarket
    with exclusively returnable packaging.
  113. And yes, it's a start,
  114. only in a few places,
  115. and we have to be careful;
  116. packaging reuse only makes sense
    in a local circular economy scheme.
  117. But even with imperfections
    at the beginning,
  118. we need to support these innovations.
  119. Very recently, the city
    of Berkeley in California -
  120. another nice campus -
  121. voted a ban on all disposable
    food and beverage containers.
  122. Very clearly, this is the end
    of the disposable cup,
  123. replaced by a glass
    and a stainless-steel straw.
  124. Your Big Mac will come
    on a reusable plate.
  125. And yes, even McDonald's spoke
    in support of the Berkeley initiative.
  126. During this eight-minute talk,
  127. over eight million bottles of plastic
    have been used in the world.
  128. 85% of them will not be collected
    and will take 400 years to disappear.
  129. We must put the right balance
    between the three Rs.
  130. Recycling of plastic
    has clear limitations.
  131. Reduce and reuse are
    far more promising solutions.
  132. Governments need to regulate plastic.
  133. The WWF has recently published
    a series of recommendations,
  134. in particular, that plastic prices
    must include the real cost
  135. for the society to manage its end of life.
  136. And this true price of plastic
    is very important
  137. if we want other options to emerge.
  138. As consumers,
  139. we all need to be ready
    to trade off some convenience and price
  140. for our health and our environment.
  141. Are you ready?
  142. (Cheering)
  143. Thank you.
  144. (Applause)