Our plastic problem is top of the agenda and steps to solving it were a major focus at the annual conference of Britain's Outdoor Industries Association (OIA) recently held at Shrigley Hall, in Cheshire.
On the second day, delegates sat down to debate the “Pass On Plastic” subject with an expert panel featuring Scott Nelson, project manager of the European Outdoor Group (EOG); Seonaid Lafferty from the Kendal Mountain Festival; and Kieran Miles, founder and chief executive of Duco. Nelson has been leading the EOG's Single Use Plastics Project, on which he is due to report at the end of this year.
The debate revolved around the question: “Can personal experience drive organizational change?” The debate was introduced by the chief executive of the growing international A.S. Adventure group, Frederic Hufkens, who showcased videos revealing plastic rubbish left at British roadsides and cafés full of people using single-use plastic coffee cups. He called on the audience to “reduce our own waste.” His outdoor retailing company doesn't use plastic bags.
During the debate, the members of the audience used the Sli.do app to ask questions via their mobile phones. They were also able to vote for the best questions, which were then put to the panel. There were 31 questions in total, ranging from “If a retailer orders 20 items why does the supplier put each item in a separate plastic bag?” to thoughts on green washing and misleading consumers.
Nelson will no doubt take such questions into account in defining the roadmap recommended by the EOG. According to him, the outdoor industry's biggest problem is its use of plastic bags and cling film. He is currently working on ways to eliminate, replace, reduce or re-circulate plastic bags. Trials will begin this summer on a number of solutions. The EOG's Single Use Plastics Project is due for delivery by December 2019 as part of a wider Retail Meets Brand Initiative.
The debate highlighted the need for all the companies involved in the outdoor value chain to learn more and share their progress, the overarching message being that the use of single-use plastics is a common problem and that we all can do something about it. It was not a call on any government or suppliers to do something. We can make a change.
Nelson concluded: “I think that the outdoor industry bears an elevated responsibility to the issue. We're one of the only industries that has nature or wilderness in our very name.”