Plastic Free Mark: Gimmick or Game Changer?
Earlier this month, the world’s first ‘plastic free mark’ was launched.
It’s purpose, unsurprisingly, is to inform consumers that the product they are buying has zero single-use plastic in its packaging.
Because let’s face it. We’ve all been there.
You’re just about to recycle a box or tray when you suddenly notice a plastic coating or film or sheet of some description. Next thing you know, you’re half way through medical school trying to learn the surgeon-like skills required to dissect it into the necessary components.
It’s a total faff.
The Plastic Free Mark
Fortunately, this struggle could soon be a thing of the past.
Thanks to the environmental campaigners A Plastic Planet, the plastic free trust mark is all up and running, with some fairly big names already signed up to it.
Now, this post isn’t going to talk about why plastic pollution is such a big problem. I like to think that’s pretty obvious at this point. Plus, I’ve already written numerous articles on it.
What I will do, however, is try and discuss whether or not the plastic free mark actually offers a genuine solution to this problem.
Just Another Logo?
Regardless of how effective the plastic free mark is, the bottom line is that it’s just another logo that companies can put on their products.
The problem is, similar accreditations haven’t exactly been all that successful.
For the most part, consumers don’t understand what each of them mean. Even Fair Trade, arguably the most successful product marking, is a tad ambiguous. Chances are, most people just see it as ‘a good thing’ rather than being able to describe how that product stands out.
Secondly, there are so many different markings and accreditations available that many of them have lost their meaning.
After all, if one products has a Carbon Trust logo, one has Fair Trade, the other has Rainforest Alliance, are consumers actually able to make more informed decisions? It all just becomes a bit pointless.
Why The Plastic Free Mark Is Different
Personally though, I think the plastic free mark successfully dodges that bullet, and for two key reasons.
1. It’s incredibly obvious what the logo means.
Fortunately, the logo itself is just a rather aesthetic way or writing ‘plastic free’. It does what it says on the tin, and doesn’t leave an awful lot of room for ambiguity.
2. It has a narrow scope
One of the big problems with many accreditations is that they try and continuously expand their scope. Usually because they want companies to pay them lots of money to become reaccredited every year or two. Each time they add new criteria and the whole thing becomes an elaborate tick box exercise.
The plastic free mark is refreshingly different.
If there isn’t any plastic in your packaging, you can apply to use the logo. Of course, A Plastic Planet carefully review applications to maintain standards, but companies certainly don’t need to jump through endless, seemingly unrelated hoops.
Related: The app that tells you how responsible a product is when you scan its barcode. Read More.
So what happens now?
If consumers respond positively to the verified products, then there’s every reason that more companies will sign up.
From there, the idea of a plastic free aisle in every supermarket could actually become a possibility. Granted, there’s a long way to go, but the plastic free mark might just be a turning point in how we get there.
Personally, I’d one day like to see this mark cover the earlier stages of the supply chain. After all, if products are covered and transported in plastic only to be unpacked before going on the shelf, then it’s not actually much to shout about.
Still, it’s important to be realistic, and that means taking things one step at a time. For now, what A Plastic Planet have created is not perfection, but progress.
Having worked in a CSR team whilst working towards third party accreditation, I know first hand how complex it can be. At the heart of it, is one simple problem. If consumers don’t understand or value the accreditation logo, what incentive do companies have to try and get it?
That problem lies at the heart of most of these certifications.
With the plastic free mark, I finally think we have something that is clear enough, simple enough, and important enough for consumers to actively demand.
And, unlike plastic, long may it last.
Hi! I’m an author and blogger within the fields of social impact and responsible business. I believe that businesses can be a force for good in the world, and this website contains my thoughts on how that can work.