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Plastic Fantastic?
Graeme Stewart, Ceo Enviro-Point on TR Getting Real

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Introduction by: Peter Marshall

Just how far is the global travel industry progressing with its sustainability objectives and are we being fully rational in our approach? Graeme Stewart, Ceo of Enviro-Point certainly has some very strong views on this topic and these are clearly expressed in the interview that follows, which may make some readers decidedly uncomfortable. But there are some important facts that need to be recognised and legitimate points are -and need to be – made.

Enviro-Point has partnered with Polymateria ‘to create the world’s first Biotransformation plastic technology, verified by new international testing standards, that fully and safely biodegrades fugitive plastics, leaving no microplastics or harmful eco-toxins’.

Getting his message across is no easy task, but he is making headway and this interview content is well worth the read.

Peter Marshall (PM): What is your overall perspective on the sustainability efforts in the GTR sector?

Graeme Stewart (GS):  My general take is that there are a number of good companies with exciting, sustainable products and solutions aiming to break the GTR industry. But unfortunately there is limited action from retailers. Far too often we see a number of the big retailers making the right noises at trade events, or in publications, but there is little action to back this up. Companies pay high salaries to some fantastic sustainability managers who research and propose the best solutions or products for the business to use, but are regularly overturned by a GM or similar who is solely focussed on price.

PM: Do you believe greenwashing, whether intentional or unintentional, exists within the GTR sector?

GS: 100%. During my presentation at the DFNI cruise event in Majorca, I highlighted this very issue within GTR. To demonstrate, some retailers have switched to paper and cotton shopper bags as an alternative to plastic bags –  without fully considering their environmental impact. These alternatives can have a greater damaging effect on the planet, but this is not immediately visible to the consumer. It is crucial for retailers to conduct thorough research on alternative solutions and avoid making hasty decisions based on cost implications.

For example, a paper bag takes 93% more energy to recycle, has 70 more air pollutants and 50 more water pollutants compared to plastic and would need to be used 24 times to be considered carbon neutral.

A cotton bag likewise would need to be re-used 3887 times to be carbon neutral, and that’s before we talk about the damaging effects cotton farming has on entire ecosystems – look up the Aral Sea for reference!

I suppose at this stage the natural question is how many times does a plastic bag need to be re-used to be carbon neutral? The answer will most likely shock, but only once! Naturally with plastic we have to consider how long it then takes to break down in the environment and the damage it carries out en-route. This is why our team at Enviro-Point partnered with Polymateria, the world’s first Biotransformation plastic technology, verified by new international testing standards that fully and safely biodegrades fugitive plastics, leaving no microplastics or harmful eco-toxins’.

PM: Can you identify any companies that are not meeting expectations and have a perception-reality gap?

GS: Without explicitly naming specific companies, I would say that any retailer using paper or cotton bags and claiming to have made sustainable improvements falls short of expectations. It is important for companies to ensure that their perception aligns with reality when it comes to sustainability efforts.

PM:  Many major players have set 2030 as a target date for their sustainability goals. How achievable do you think this timeframe is?

GS: While there are certain aspects that could be achieved well before 2030, I have personally encountered resistance when proposing small sustainable changes. There is often a focus on larger sustainability goals, such as sustainable aviation fuel which, whilst admirable, may overshadow simple, immediate changes that could be implemented today.

PM:  What are the main challenges you face when introducing sustainable products and solutions to the industry?

GS: Misinformation – As mentioned earlier, some retailers are using alternative solutions to single-use plastics that actually have a greater negative impact on the environment. It is crucial for the industry to subjectively review multiple proposed solutions to find the most sustainable and advantageous options for their businesses.

Also,  the other issue faced is businesses failing to reply to 5, 10, or even 20 plus e-mails following interest in our technology after I have spoken at an event – even when I have provided supply quotes which save them 6 figure sums on their annual consumption compared to their existing supply chain.

PM: How many people truly understand the central issues and the urgency to accelerate the implementation of sustainable practices?

GS: There is a growing trend towards sustainability in the industry, and there are many knowledgeable and dedicated individuals working in this sector. However, it may be necessary for a collective voice to emerge in order to make the rest of the industry truly listen and understand these issues and the urgency to accelerate the pace of implementation.

PM:  Your stance on the use of plastic may be considered controversial by some. Could you explain your perspective?

GS: While plastic has many benefits compared to alternative solutions, such as a lower carbon footprint, less energy required for recycling, strength, durability, lightweight nature and affordability, it is important to acknowledge that there is also excessive and unnecessary single-use plastic being used worldwide. I advocate for plastic when it is the best solution for the job and when it can be properly recycled. Sustainability is not a one-size-fits-all concept, and businesses need to remain adaptable.

PM: So which companies have embraced your solutions so far?

GS: After advocating for sustainable practices during a challenging period for our industry, we are finally starting to witness positive changes. Our other business, Luggage-Point, was the first customer to use our biotransformation technology in bag wrap at the airport. Following that, we started supplying Secure Travel, a bag wrap operator in Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland airports. Additionally, following the Consumer Forum in Vienna and a conversation with Sacha Zackariya (CEO ChangeGroup), we are now supplying the ChangeGroup with their currency wallets. We also have other companies in GTR lined up for supply, and we hope to share more news soon.

PM: What are your main aspirations for Enviro-Point and how do you add value to the business community?

GS: Personally, I would love to see all airports and duty-free retailers using our Biotransformation STEBs (Security Tamper Evident Bags). While these bags are currently necessary due to regulations, our technology allows for advertising on the bags under ICAO guidelines. This means that the product can be monetised rather than being provided as a free consumable to customers.

Furthermore, we have approached a couple of airports and cruise lines regarding our closed-loop recycling system. This involves introducing our biotransformation technology into F&B outlets for items such as cups, cutlery, and straws. We would then collaborate with an independent recycling company to collect and re-manufacture this plastic waste into new products, creating a truly circular solution that passengers can witness first hand.

PM: Finally, Graeme, if there are three things you want to say to the industry right now, what would they be?

GS:  First, ensure thorough analysis of all proposed alternative solutions. Second, recognise that the Gen Z demographic, which is set to become the largest passenger group, expects sustainable solutions and will take action against greenwashing. And last, embrace adaptability and make sustainable changes that can be implemented today rather than solely focusing on long-term goals.

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