Is being green good for business?

28th September 2017 | Recycling

On Monday 11 September, The Spectator hosted a round table discussion over lunch about whether being green is good for business. Guests included: Philosopher Sir Roger Scruton, Shaun Spiers, CEO of Green Alliance, Mark Saxon from Coca-Cola Great Britain, journalist Harry Mount, Tom Robinson, founder of Adaptavate, Bill Wiggin MP, Peter Aldous MP, Neil Parish MP, Scott Mann MP and Anthony Marlowe of Edelman. Fraser Nelson chaired the discussion.

Recent bedtime reading for Sir Roger Scruton was a 50-page treatise by an art historian on the design of the classic Coke bottle, whose twists, it transpires, were designed specifically to foil counterfeiters. Less iconic, though no less important in some respects, it its modern plastic equivalent. Quietly, Coca-Cola bottles have become a model for what is known as the “circular economy” – in which resources can be used and re-used, minimising waste.

It is hard to like plastic. It has become a symbol of the throwaway society, of carelessness with resources and maltreatment of the environment. It decays so slowly that the plastic bottles and containers in our landfill sites will still be recognisable if dug up in centuries to come. Worse are the islands of discarded plastic circling our oceans which, says Shaun Spiers of Green Alliance, campaigners have ironically lobbied the UK to recognise as a nation – in order to draw attention to their size. Sir Roger Scruton points out that some of the rules which have forced excess packaging on us have been inspired by large businesses wanting to gain commercial advantage over smaller competitors – it is easy for a supermarket to wrap goods in plastic, less so for a market trader.

Yet plastic bottles do not need to be a problem. It is perfectly possible to collect them and reuse them. Since 2012, the standard Coca-Cola bottle has been 100 per cent recyclable. Moreover, increasing numbers of the bottles are being collected and recycled by the company itself. Coca Cola has invested in a plastics reprocessing plant in Lincolnshire which has so far processed 2 billion bottles. Not all of the plastic in the company’s bottles is derived from fossil fuel – up to 30 per cent of the plastic used in some bottles is now derived from plant sources. Meanwhile, the amount of plastic used in the manufacture of a standard plastic bottle has halved over the past 20 years.

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