Help #MoveTheDate With Packaging: Earth Overshoot Day

Earth Overshoot Day

Every year humankind trudges past a depressing milestone coined Earth Overshoot Day. It marks the point at which our insatiable demands on the earth’s natural resources outstretch it’s capacity to regenerate in that year. Continued consumption from this point onwards plunges us into an unsustainable deficit for long-term planetary health. This year, Saturday August 22nd has been earmarked as the official annual Earth Overshoot Day. 

Global Footprint Network are the organisation responsible for determining these woeful dates, using statistics about food waste, carbon footprints and forest product footprint from across the world. They calculate that currently humans use as much ecological resources as if we lived on 1.6 earths. The thinktank aims to raise awareness of the earth’s desperate plight for sustainability through a campaign called #MoveTheDate, aimed at encouraging us to reduce our impact on the natural environment, to help make Earth Overshoot Day a thing of the past. 

The good news this year is that 2020’s date is more than 3 weeks later than 2019’s, although this is likely due in part to the global COVID-19 lockdown anomaly which has given nature a brief window for flourishment and regeneration. However, exceptional circumstances aside, the trend since the early 1970s has unfortunately been a steady increase in the ecological deficit. So how can we push back our overshoot before the earth’s untimely doom? 

The answer is obviously very complex, related to population sizes, lifestyles, travel, technology, wealth divides, infrastructure, industry and more. However, our plastic packaging choices certainly have a role to play in protecting and extending the earth’s natural offerings and are something we can all exert some control over with a little knowledge. 

Substituting virgin materials for those that have been formed from recycled ones is a great way to reduce our dependence on raw resources like fossil fuels. Plastic films with post-consumer waste content meet circular economy goals as their usage means less and less virgin materials are required whilst existing plastics get longer and longer useful lives. YPS have a range of shrink films available with as much as 70% re-granulated recycled plastic content that are also fully recyclable, therefore truly meeting closed-loop models of reuse and recycle. To help the cause, each of us can contribute to the availability of post-consumer material that’s available in the supply chain to be renewed for packaging by being stringent with our personal waste. Always check on-pack signage before disposing of any plastic films to discover if they are recyclable or not and endeavour to carry the recommended action out; whether that’s to place in kerbside recycling bins or to submit to a supermarket to recycle. OPRL is an innovative scheme that aims to display clear and consistent recycling symbols across as many packs as possible to increase the incidence of recycling by the UK population. Yorkshire Packaging Systems are a certified OPRL member and so any business using our plastic shrink films can apply to display these recycling symbols on their products. Additionally, if your business uses recyclable flexible plastic packaging, where possible, collect any waste using a baling machine before sending it to an industrial recycling plant to contribute to the continuous flow of valuable material. 

When looking to reduce the amount of materials we deplete from the environment, it also makes sense to reduce the volume of packaging we consume. Plastic films have an excellent capacity to be applied more and more thinly without compromise to performance or protective qualities compared to other packaging methods. At YPS we encourage businesses to adopt even thinner micron films wherever possible, substituting standard films for an equivalent in our range of Bollore Thin Technology films, for which we are the exclusive UK supplier. Downgauging from films as thick as 15mu to as low as 9mu can save thousands of tonnes of plastic use every year for a large-scale packaging operation.

Experts warn that pushing back Earth Overshoot Day cannot be achieved without minimising food waste – another area where plastic packaging can help. Global Footprint Network advises that: ‘Globally, wasted food is equivalent to about 9% of the earth’s Ecological Footprint. If we cut food waste in half worldwide, we would #MoveTheDate of Earth Overshoot Day by as much as 11 days.’ Action plans to tackle food waste need a multi-disciplinary approach around labelling, storage and behaviours but shrink films have a role to play.  Studies have proven that shrink film can prevent food wastage by significantly extending the shelf life of various fresh foodstuffs when used with modified atmosphere technology. Furthermore, shrink film layers also prevent contamination, leakage, tampering and damage of foodstuffs which make them more likely to be disposed of before consumption. 

If you’d like more information on our thin technology films, films with recycled content or to discuss the role of films in food waste reduction, get in touch today.