During the Covid pandemic, many businesses and entrepreneurs have been forced to do business differently in what is now considered the “new normal”. From switching face-to-face meetings to Zoom calls and hosting virtual events in lieu of physical ones, the foreseeable business and events landscape is very different from what we envisaged at the start of 2020.
Like many businesses, we ourselves have been battling a pandemic, but it’s not the one that’s been grabbing all the headlines for the past 8 months. Our fight has been with the plastic pandemic and was here long before Covid hit and will continue to be here long after it’s gone.
Now, it may not be a pandemic that has caused a loss of human life (for now), but the devastation it has caused and will continue to cause our environment and wildlife will subsequently destroy our planet if we don’t learn how to be more sustainable.
In the Beginning
The first synthetic plastic (Bakelite) was produced in 1907, marking the beginning of the global plastics industry. However, rapid growth in global plastic production was not realised until the 1950s and over the next 65 years, annual production of plastics increased nearly 200-fold to 448 million tons by 2015 – with production expected to double by 2050.
The conveniences plastics offer, however, led to a throw-away culture. Today, single-use plastics account for 40 percent of the plastic produced every year and half of all plastics ever manufactured, have been made in the last 15 years.
Many of these products, such as plastic bags and food wrappers, have a lifespan of mere minutes to hours, yet their destruction to our environment will last for hundreds of years.
Plastic pollution was first noticed in the ocean by scientists carrying out plankton studies in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Now we have an area spanning 1.6km2 (twice the size of Texas) called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, polluting our oceans.
Look towards a Sustainable Future
As with our nature to pioneer and push the boundaries, we felt that something needed to be done. Now, we already as a business utilise fabrics made from recycled PET through our Uzwelo Bags initiative, but what if we could take this same technology and introduce it into the events industry?
So, we developed a sustainable fabric which utilises 40% recycled PET bottles – this equates to approximately 15 PET bottles per every 4m2 and manufacture a selected range of our products with this fabric.
Why only 40%? Well, it’s far more sustainable and allows us to maintain the tensile strength of the fabric.
That’s not all… Most countries import their plastic waste from other countries like China when creating recycled products, but we have our own plastic waste issue deal with, which is why we only utilise 100% South African PET waste which in turn creates job opportunities.