In 2018, our use of plastic and its effect on the environment became a major theme in the debates. We produce nearly 300 million tons of plastic each year, half of which is for single use only. Plastic bags (500 billion are used around the world per year) have, for example, an average life of only 15 minutes. Plastic products are part of everyday life and their accessibility and adaptability make them a valuable resource. But their impact on the environment is more and more worrying. And for good reason: 8 million tons of plastic are now thrown into the oceans every year.
This phenomenon has recently been dramatically highlighted when a sperm whale ran aground on a beach in southern Spain, with nearly 30 kg of garbage in the stomach. The death of the cetacean has prompted the authorities in Murcia to launch a quick cleaning of its beaches, but a more proactive approach is however required to initiate real environmental changes. In this context, the European Union has launched new actions this year to address the issue of sustainability. In January, the EU announced several measures to fight against plastic waste and promised that every packaging in Europe would be reusable or recyclable by 2030. Among the products more particularly targeted are plastic straws, packaging of takeaways, coffee cups and non-biodegradable bottles. In addition, single-use plastics may soon be taxed, in order to reduce their use.
Frans Timmermans, Vice-President of the European Commission, acknowledged that Brussels’ main priority was to eliminate plastics, which took five minutes to create, compared to 500 years to degrade. « If we do not act, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans in 50 years, » he said. « We have all seen the pictures, whether you watch The Blue Planet or the beaches of Asian countries after the storms. » Timmermans also emphasized the importance of education with regard to plastics. He has cited his own children, future consumers perfectly able to understand the difference between the use of non-recyclable plastic straws and paper straws.
Sometimes more urgent help is needed to stop environmental degradation. For example, Haiti had no infrastructure for recycling or waste treatment until the devastating earthquake struck in 2010. Today, waste problems in the country are at an all-time high. Plastic is burned daily, giving off a foul odor and harmful toxins in the air. Waste litter the streets and are then swept on the beaches, then in the sea with each shower. The problem of plastic in Haiti goes even beyond the environment: it causes health problems and a decline in foreign investment. In addition, the prospect of surveying streets full of garbage does not favor tourism.
HP Haiti video
Obviously, the government and individuals can not always make major progress alone. It requires an effort on the part of companies, especially multinationals, to promote positive environmental and social change. In this area and through its partnership with Thread and its participation in the First Mile Coalition, HP is one of those companies that take on social responsibility. In June 2017, the manufacturer announced the launch of HP Original Ink Cartridges, made from recycled plastic in Haiti. HP buys recycled plastic in Haiti, with two key benefits: revenue for local residents and the manufacture of durable ink cartridges.
« For decades, HP has been committed to sourcing responsibly and treating all employees with respect, » said Stuart Pann, Supply Chain Manager at HP. « Our work in Haiti allows us to help vulnerable people who pick up plastic and integrate plastic into our supply chain. We are creating economic opportunities and a better quality of life for these families. «
For Rosette Altidor, owner of a collection center in Haiti, this program offered her an income that helped her to support her family. « The work done by [Thread and] HP helps me send my kids to school and pay my house, » she says. « It encourages me to motivate others to collect plastic as well. Everyone can find an advantage to participate in the cleanup work in Haiti. «
HP’s commitment to Haiti is also complemented by its Planet Partners program. This allows customers to return and recycle their HP ink cartridges, HP LaserJet toner, and Samsung toner. The plastic war will undoubtedly be a long and difficult struggle, but other large companies following the example of HP could change the game.