On the daily

Plastic free July Day 24

Very appropriate that during Plastic-free July, my fabulous wife / co-founder Kim Graham-Nye’s recent TEDxSydney talk goes live.

I am thrilled to share this message with everyone wanting to end plastic waste (hint…it starts by not making things out of plastic!!!).

Please share with your networks.

We are drowning in this stuff but we have the solutions.

On the daily

Plastic free July Day 4…

Visy Recycling behind ‘toxic’ plastic waste container in Indonesia

Visy’s ‘toxic’ plastic waste will be returned to Australia from the Indonesian city of Batam after Indonesian authorities put their foot down.
— Read on www.smh.com.au/world/asia/visy-recycling-behind-toxic-plastic-waste-container-in-indonesia-20190703-p523s0.html

That’s right kids. Recycling isn’t the answer. It’s actually “downcycling” because the result is material of a lesser value that will ultimately be landfilled.

We are the only species in earth that creates waste. And waste is simply the result of lazy design. We are better than this people!

On the daily

Unknown unknowns

It’s been a busy few weeks since landing back in Oz from the UK. While Kim has remained in London I have been solo-parenting and working from Sydney.

The kids may have rickets given their exclusively Coco Pops derived diet under my household leadership.

Kim headed to NY last weekend to speak at the UN’s Youth Assembly addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. She was also a judge for an impact start-up competition and met some amazing young entrepreneurs from all over the world. There were in fact 1,000 delegates from 100 countries.

Kim made an interesting and somewhat uncomfortable observation after learning about these fantastic young entrepreneurs.

In these rapidly changing times, we have the tendency to mistake what we believe is much-valued wisdom with a limited Fixed Mindset that forecloses on possibility.

When we started gDiapers in 2005, we came into it with “beginner mind” as we had no experience in Consumer Goods, fundraising, team building, moving to America-ing and indeed parenting as we had just become parents too. The beginner minds is also known as a “Growth Mindset“. Without it we would have never gotten the business off the ground.

It strikes me that a Fixed Mindset probably comes with age. And as we are now older – 48 (!), maybe we have slipped in our way of thinking. That is a dangerous thing given just how fast the world is now changing. Just when you think you know it all, you realize you don’t. Or you don’t realize you don’t and live a life of unknown unknowns in the famous words of Donald Rumsfeld. (Remember those simpler times of just lying about going to war? Good times. Hit the link – my favorite press conference).

Food for thought.

On the daily

The trouble with banning plastic straws and everything else

On holiday with the extended family – brothers, sisters, cousins all together to celebrate the Matriarch’s 80th birthday and the conversation turns to straws with my brother who works in hospitality in the UK.

His hotel is making the switch to paper straws and have immediately run into two issues: (1) The paper ones are 4x the price and (2) in some drinks they disintegrate: a failure of price and performance.

This will likely be repeated as we work our way down the list of plastic goods to be banned. Price is certainly an issue in our category as we prepare to launch gCycle in the UK. There is nothing in the world as cheap and effective as plastic. Over 70 years we have refined and perfected the art of extracting oil, extruding plastic and making everything we can think of out of plastic. It’s really the McDonalds of a material. In small amounts as originally intended, all good but today like the fast food / obesity epidemic plastic is killing us.

So what is the answer in a world where we all want cheap, convenient and now sustainable?

The combination of China banning the importation of recyclables along with very low recycling rates globally, I do not believe recycling is the answer. It’s missing the surge of the problem, the material we use to make products in the first place. And most recycling is really down-cycling: an ever-decreasing value of the products being made from recycling.

I think the answer is to bring into the world new materials that are designed with the end in mind. These are materials used in products that follow Cradle to Cradle principles.

By definition, these materials are more expensive than plastic and will remain so until mass adoption is achieved. To bridge the gap between here and there, I see Government subsidies as a key piece of the puzzle. I see no other way to accelerate to a Circular Economy away from the current Linear one.

With the price issue resolved, there will be more viable businesses able to test and tweak new materials to make products that match the performance of their plastic alternatives.

Banning plastic products alone will not see the change we seek. We need a little pricing support too to kick things off.

Circular Economy, Conferences

Summary of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2018 Circular Economy Summit

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The overarching theme this year was how can technology accelerate the shift from a “line to a circle” (Linear to Circular). We heard from:

New Harvest – making meat but not as we know it.

Provenance – Using Blockchain to create supply chain transparency. Material becomes currency because you know the value and can see the value.
The Real Real  –  A NY – based online luxury goods consignment store with market with $700M in revenue after just 7 years. They are seeing a switch buying habits to people buying things that have a better resale price. They are the antidote to fast fashion as quality luxury goods have a second, third and fourth life. They will be the first billion dollar Circular Economy company.

Estonia – The country boasts an “invisible” Government. Embracing technology including Blockchain, citizens can vote from their mobile phones and can complete tax returns in under a minute. Since 2012 all citizen’s details are on a closed Blockchain and kept decentralised across 2000 locations. No one location knows all the information.
And Citizens can see who has been looking at their data. Meanwhile in Australia, I need a utility bill to prove my identity. (#CuttingEdge)

Estonia will be paperless in 10 years. They are also  working on AI policy and using algorithms to rework legal / insurance frameworks. One consideration is: “does AI get their own separate legal entity?”. In 4 years, AI will be fully implemented and that will see a 50% reduction in civil servants and they are all happy with that as they know other employment opportunities will emerge. Contrast that to Germany where civil servants are still guaranteed lifetime employment.

The shift has got little to do with technology. It is culture and mindset. It’s about defining the relationship between citizens and the Govt, culture and mindset.

China – That massive country. They have embraced the Circular Economy since 1997. Their approach to the Circular Economy is fundamentally different to the West as they started 10 years earlier and started in the middle of their Industrial Revolution compared to the Developed World where the damage has been wholly done.
The developed world pollutes first and then looks for clean up solutions. In China, they do not want to pollute in the first place. In their recently announced 13th 5 year plan (gotta love a planned economy), their Circular Economy priorities are:

(1) Bio-design of products – upstream
(2) Extended Producer Responsibility – downstream

Two unrelated random facts of the day: 
(1) 50% of Facebook’s workforce earn more than $240K pa while California has the highest incidence of poverty in the US.
(2) Fortnite, the game every adolescent around the globe is playing is pulling down $300 million profit every month!

It was another great summit with some really good connections made.