Washing Machines, Plastic and Nature 

Claire Plowright 

Dec 2023 

A colleague from Crown Abbey bought a new washing machine not long ago. They mentioned that despite having 15 different wash cycles, none of them quite met their needs. Also, they were surprised by the amount of water used per cycle, even when using the ‘eco’ mode. It’s all in the details, but how often do we really look at them? Really examining our impact on the world through our expectations, actions and words? Can we find the exact requirement we need for our desired outcome? 

 Within the realms of sustainability, we’ve recently seen a rightful backlash against green washing. Empty claims are not what the world needs right now. Realism, hope and possibility are all ways that we, at Crown Abbey like to view our projects and products that we support to develop and launch. With more than 60% of businesses off track to meet their sustainability goals and 75% of business leaders believing they have not embedded sustainability well into their companies (Bain and Company Consultants), we aim to keep supporting those businesses who are keen to remain on the right track and bring to the table ideas, processes and materials which support maintenance towards sustainability goals. 

 Sustainability though, is a little bit like the washing machine- we need products and packaging in our lives. But is there one ‘True’ answer to not impacting our world negatively, to only using what we need or taking care of trash? The answer is ‘no’.  

There are a myriad of answers, depending on the raw materials, product, its manufacture, use and end of life. And that doesn’t even cover the cultural demands, and what we expect from our ‘quality’ of life.  

 As my dad says though, there are only two things you can be certain of in life- death and taxes.  

So, I thought I’d mention the recently confirmed Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) which will enforce a tax of  £217.85 per tonne to all plastic packaging, containing less than 30% recycled plastic that is manufactured and imported into the UK on and after 1‌‌‌ ‌‌April 2024. The aim is to encourage both manufacturers and consumers to buy packaging with increasing volumes of recycled content, encourage plastic ‘waste’ to be seen as a valuable resource and support increased volumes of plastics reaching the recycling loop. It will be interesting to see how this impacts both the EU markets and relationships, and how easy it will be to navigate for those working across international borders.  

 ‘Simple’ is always the best approach to packaging- it should be minimal, recyclable and re- useable. This applies to both plastic and cardboard packaging and in both cases the more simple the better. Plain cardboard that can most readily be recycled, without excess inks or plastic coating. Additionally, packaging that is a mono-plastic, be that films or more rigid plastic is most definitely the way forward.  

 But, in recent months we have been pondering the impact of chasing carbon neutrality or reducing carbon. There is absolutely no doubt that Carbon reduction is required to address the current imbalance of the planets eco systems. However, whole Life Cycle Assessments (LCA’s) are very much needed when reviewing or choosing packaging and product options.  

Whole product life is vital to understanding the wider impact of our ‘consuming’. But what about the aspects which are more difficult to measure?  

 ‘Its Now for Nature’ and ‘Business for Nature’ are two programmes which we think will be worth keeping an eye on and engaging with more. As 21st Century humans we tend to easily forget that we are intricately and sensitively linked to the world around us. Both organisations are encouraging us, not only to think of being able to assess LCA’s and carbon, but to look directly to or impact on nature. ‘Where is nature in our business strategy?’ they ask. Do we need to be looking wider than our current models of measuring sustainability? 

 Crown Abbey will be keeping an eye on this area of important sustainability advocacy, Biodiversity and nature.  

 With COP28 currently being held in Dubai, for all the world to cast their eyes over the world sustainability stage- indeed, one of the goals in this year’s conference is to look at the connection between ‘people and nature’. Watch this space….