With a recent BBC headline announcing "Ocean plastic could triple in a decade" it's fair to say that the size, scale and urgency of the problem is crystallised.

Desperate times need drastic measures and clearly the current global plastic crisis is just that. Today is International Earth Day, which creates an opportunity for the spotlight to be shone on how we are faring - but no country can afford to cast only an annual glance.

Well-orchestrated campaigns creating pressure can be quickly harnessed and galvanised through social media. Bans are often the result of a surge in public opinion which sees the politicians climb onto the bandwagon of change to win voter support.

But what about their commitment, and policy initiatives, before the problem got out of control?


I believe those calling for something to be banned should ask two simple questions.

First, what will the prohibition do in respect of the undesired behaviour?

And second, what other consequences may flow?

Banning one thing could see it replaced by something less desirable. The focus needs to be on what the ban is seeking to achieve.

Sustainable behavioural change needs to be embedded in cultures and that includes corporations. The plastic problem, and other environmental issues, are not just for councils, governments and environmentalists to solve; individuals and businesses need to get involved.

Corporations understand the power of brands and the efficacy of being part of the drive to create solutions.

As part of the Davos Economic Forum a spectrum of leading brands, retailers and packaging companies working towards using 100 per cent reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlier has grown to 11.

ecostore has a very strong planet-protection ethos that is not activist led but anchored to sound and sustainable strategies that provide what we call a "ROI With Respect".

The investment was significant. In 2014, ecostore became the first manufacturer in New Zealand to convert our bottles to renewable, recyclable, sugarcane-made plastic. It's a more sustainable pack and shifts away from the dependence of petroleum/fossil fuels. However, more needs to be done around how plastic is used by consumers.

One Scandinavian deposit-based system for bottles has been a success because consumers are incentivised. They pay a deposit on every bottle and when an empty is returned, they receive a coupon to cover the deposit.

A Scottish business is producing a road-surface material made from asphalt mix and pellets of recycled plastic. It replaces much of the oil-based bitumen used in traditional applications. Fulton Hogan is trialling a similar initiative at Christchurch Airport.

The search for alternatives needs to be grounded in re-thinking, which is an opportunity for public and private partnerships identifying, and then rewarding, innovative solutions.

Does New Zealand need a mini Davos of its own?

As a country we have the talent, and capability, to create viable and sustainable solutions to help safeguard the world. Harnessing and unleashing this energy in a positive and focussed way is an opportunity worth embracing.

Pablo Kraus is managing director of ecostore