Plastic – An Environmental Perspective

Interview with Sustainability Director, Maïté Angleys

Why is it so difficult to say one material is more sustainable than the other?
The environmental impact associated with all the stages of a product’s life are assessed with a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The problem is that you have to compare very specific scenarios in which a material is used (aka: is material x in this country, in this use case, in this disposal method, less impactful than material). This is why you cannot say glass is better than plastic – the answer is: it depends!

How sustainable is plastic?
There is a widely spread misconception around plastic and that is “it is unsustainable and replacing it will solve all problems around it”. But that is not simply not true. The single-use Plastic Project by European Outdoor Group (EOG) has found (after a year-long review of studies) that you have to differentiate between A) the resource of plastic, B) its lifespan and, C) its end of life. The main problem with plastic is its end of life and our recycling structures are a huge part of the problem! 

But what about other materials like bio-plastic and glass?
During production, transportation and use, virgin plastic outperforms materials such as bio-based plastic, paper, cotton and glass. It is in the end of life where the problem starts. We have primarily a waste problem. There is one exception: recycled plastic and recycled aluminium. We have currently opted for recycled plastic but are actively researching recycled aluminium.

So what is the solution?
To solve the problem of plastic pollution we need to keep plastic in the loop. This means: use recycled plastic and ensure recyclability. We have developed a plastic strategy with a goal set to increase our intake of recycled plastic and ensure recyclability until 2023. In addition to that, Nikwax has been an active member of the pan-European Single Use Plastic project right from the start. The project brings like-minded outdoor brands and retailers together to collaborate and create an industry-wide solution for the single use plastic in the outdoor industry.

Here are some details on the Nikwax Plastic Strategy.
Nikwax Plastic Strategy
During production, transportation and use, virgin plastic out-performs materials such as:
• bio-based plastic
• paper
• cotton
• glass
• aluminium

The main problem with plastic is its end of life. We have developed a plastic strategy to minimise the use of virgin plastic and keep recycled plastic in the loop as long as possible.

Nikwax bottles are already made from 100% recycled plastic.
Our goals regarding single use plastic are:
• 90% of all single use plastic we buy is made from recycled plastic by the end of 2023.
• Ensure 99% of all single use plastic we buy is recyclable by the end of 2023.