What does sustainability mean to us?

Sustainability and the use of plastics can often leave businesses feeling overwhelmed when thinking about the best way to make meaningful environmental change. You might feel under pressure to do something – whether that’s because of customer demand, new regulations or just a feeling that things cannot carry on the way they are.

Sustainability is about living our lives in the present, whilst not harming the ability of future generations to thrive.

The SMI Hub is here to provide honest, trusted advice to help you to start taking meaningful action to improve the sustainability of your use of plastics.

There are an increasing number of alternatives being touted as the solution to the “plastics problem” – everything from eco-labels, biodegradable, compostable, and plant-based products to substitute materials such as paper, glass, or metal. These choices make it difficult to recognise what is best for your business and the planet. Rather than reaching for the emergency button and trying to go plastics-free, we encourage a science-led approach. Plastics have such varied roles within modern society and can still be hidden within alternatives marketed as ‘sustainable’, ‘green’ or ‘eco’. The desire for immediate solutions can cause unintended environmental consequences when decisions are made in the heat of the moment, which can exacerbate the urgent problems we currently face.

The SMI Hub can help you to navigate this world of overwhelming choice by advocating short-term actions as well as opportunities for greater transformative change. This is all underpinned by our scientific research and unique insights into future improvements in technology and infrastructure.

Together we can help create a joint vision of a more sustainable future. Helping your business to improve sales, profitability, reputation, and resilience, whilst reducing the number of urgent problems you juggle every day.

Contact us to find out more about how we can help you.

The urgency of the problem

As a society, we are seeing increasing public awareness of how climate change, social inequality and the dangers of plastic pollution are interwoven. The most vulnerable and marginalised in society are paying the highest price whilst contributing the least to environmental damage. We are starting to comprehend the gravity of the situation and the need for transformative change within our systems of production and consumption. Businesses are on the frontline of these systems and have the power to play a significant role instigating the transformation needed for a more sustainable future. The SMI Hub wants to support businesses that share our ambition and want to learn more about how to use that power to create positive change.

As public awareness on plastics pollution has increased, the use of plastic has increasingly become a symbol for the multiple converging crises, from climate change to biodiversity loss and social inequalities related to oil extraction, petrochemical manufacture and waste. When faced with the ubiquitous promotion of plastic for many this creates visions of a bleak future.

We currently use plastic because it is a co-product of our fossil fuelled energy system and it has useful properties in many applications. When compared to alternatives; it’s low energy, low cost, lightweight, durable and in many instances reduces food waste, prevents disease and keeps us breathing.

However, once plastic is used and its value extracted, it becomes a problem. Little consideration is given to its future or where it will end up. The most advanced waste systems still struggle to overcome the technological, economic and social barriers to retaining the value of this resource. Whilst there are decades-old claims about the recyclability of plastics, the reality is that far more finds its way into incinerators, landfills or pollutes our rivers, oceans, air and land rather than being recycled. We see huge opportunities to improve and create meaningful change when we help businesses create solutions that allow plastics to go from being labelled as recyclable to being recycled time and again.

Our ambition at the SMI Hub is to tackle multiple and converging crises using scientific knowledge, technical skills and state-of-the-art research facilities. We work with businesses to help create solutions in constructive and honest partnerships to improve our future prospects.

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