Can the planet support 10 billion people? Today, there are over seven billion of us on Earth, with the UN predicting the global population will hit 9.8 billion by 2050. That’s a whole lot of people, and (potentially) a whole lot of disposable coffee cups and plastic straws. If the entire world lived a Western lifestyle, it’s been said we would need multiple planets worth of resources to sustain ourselves.
European governments, including in France, the Netherlands, Finland, and Germany, believe we need to move towards a “circular economy” (though some researchers think even that is not going far enough to be truly sustainable). Can we, as individuals, cut down the amount of “stuff” we use? And recycle or reuse as much as possible? Would that be enough to support ten billion people?
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Ingrida believes a “zero waste” lifestyle is possible as long as the EU applies strict rules so that manufacturers only use recyclable packaging. Is she right?
To get a response, we put her comment to Mella Frewen, Director General of FoodDrink Europe, a European food industry confederation. How would she respond?
For packaging to be recyclable it is not only about how it is designed. Of course, the design can play a role, and many food and drink manufacturers have made commitments and pledges to design their packaging to be more circular. However, while you can have a pack that is perfectly designed for recyclability, there needs to be collection, sorting and recycling infrastructure in place to recycle it and consumers need to be aware of how to dispose of it properly. We need a whole-of-society approach.
To get another perspective, we also put Ingrida’s comment to Larissa Copello, Consumption and Production Campaigner at the environmental organisation Zero Waste Europe. Her organisation argues in favour of reusable alternatives to plastic food containers. So, how would she respond to Ingrida?
Is a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle possible? Would stricter EU rules around recyclable materials help? Is greater investment needed in recycling infrastructure across the board? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!