How blockchain will help make single-use plastics part of the recycling economy

- April 24, 2020 2 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock

As the corona virus rages and infection fears increase plastic consumption is on the rise.

At supermarkets, among the few places allowed to stay open, customers are increasingly using disposable plastic bags amid concerns reusable ones will spread the disease.

In cafes, reusable cups have been banned seeing a return to single use containers. It’s an alarming trend but one that can be balanced by consumers and companies taking a greater responsibility for plastic waste – where it comes from and where it goes.

Now, more than ever, we need to look beyond the “take, make, waste” approach and focus on solutions that have a less damaging impact. Plastic is a necessity and it will continue to be so for some time.

Rising demand from consumers during this crisis alone ensures that and, of course, it has countless benefits for transport, food packaging and health to name a few. The cost of plastic production in terms of environmental impact is huge but much of it can be reversed through the circular economy.

What does this mean? It means tracking production and returning what comes from nature to the production cycle.

Security matters founder Haggai Alon

The first step for this is tracing each material element from origin, through production to use and then recycling. This last link of the cycle has been missing for some time but technology now exists that enables this to happen.

Technology that can be embedded in all materials without altering the composition that allows it tracked through all its various incarnations.

What is needed now is for governments and the industrial and manufacturing sectors to fully embrace this technology and its rollout across the world. And this will only happen when voters and consumers call for it to happen. Now is the time.

With consumption of singe use items on the increase, we need to push for change at the top. Individuals can only do so much to recycle and reuse waste so it is time for us to lobby governments to ramp up economic incentives to recycle and to reward those companies that do embrace the circular economy.

This change will require a rethink of supply chains which are largely built for delivery and not recovery. This will require capital but with the emphasis on ESG (environmental, social and governance) investment this is something that companies (and shareholders) should be able recognise.

Some of the world’s biggest and most forward-thinking companies are already making moves to embrace the circular economy. French multinational LVMH is launching a blockchain-based system to authenticate and trace its products and the world’s biggest chemical company BASF this week announced a collaboration with my company to develop solutions for plastics traceability and circularity.

For these initiatives to work companies need consumer support so now is the time for a considerable shift in the way we consume. As plastic consumption rises again, each purchase must be considered.

The linear economy, based on products used once and thrown away, is no longer feasible. The future is circular and needs to be embraced now

  • Haggai Alon is the founder and CEO of supply chain integrity technology company Security Matters.