June 25, 2024

Eco priorities in the face of COVID-19

Sustainability champion, Ariane van Mancius of NOW NEW NEXT, questions what the COVID-19 crisis means for environmental priorities…

Over the last two years I have dug deep into the issues of sustainable food and packaging looking at how we could change from a linear to a circular economy, and more clearly see the hidden impact of our system and become really sustainable.

And then there was COVID-19…my 20th ITCA and WTCE were, for the first time, not taking place and not because of climate change, as I had predicted might happen, but because of a pandemic outbreak, a virus called COVID-19/Corona.

This virus has literally brought our systems to a halt and almost all aircraft worldwide are grounded.

At NOW NEW NEXT we do a lot of scenario planning and trend forecasting, and my community of trends friends have gathered and shared all the information they have on how COVID-19 will affect the future. We’€™ve been looking at the impacts of self-distancing, online grocery shopping, the growth in local initiatives, pre-packed foods and the burning of trillions of disposable gloves, caps and other hospital gear – now infected hospital litter.

The big questions we’€™ve been considering in these uncertain time are: Do the virus and climate change have anything in common? Will Single Use Plastics (SUP) regulations be postponed? Will, under the pressure of hygiene imperatives, the ban on plastics disappear?

The Global Risks Report 2020, presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos, discussed the risks the world would be facing in the coming year. It stressed the need for a multi-stakeholder approach in addressing the world’€™s challenges. It looked at the likelihood of an infectious disease and while it did not seem a big risk in the near future, the impact was indeed recognised as potentially significant.

Now we are seeing the impact first hand and the importance of nature and our environment has unexpectedly come to the fore. Viruses are part of our natural ecosystem and if the ecosystem is out of balance they clearly have more chance to take hold. Deforrestation in the Congo is widely believed to have caused bats to fly into the city where Ebola broke out.

We can doubtless stop this coronavirus in time, and will likely have a vaccine soon but continued climate change will ultimately be irreversible without action.

Luckily out of this virus crisis the single winner is nature’“ benefitting from the’˜quarantine of consumerism’€™, and going forward we will need products and solutions that support a new recognition of the enviromental impacts of our actions and activities.

Customer experience’“ the new marketing department’“ has been all about meaningful contact moments with passengers but due to COVID-19 the opposite is now what people need and want. Hygiene and disposable items go hand in hand and it is highly likely plastic wrapping is going to come back around food.

Nearly all sustainable initiatives are on hold. We cannot talk about sustainability it seems when we are hungry or need extra hygiene measures, but as we rebuild our post-Corona serivces we will need to re-think service onboard, food and packaging. The crisis will bring change.

Before COVID airlines had agreed that getting rid of 6.1 billion tonnes of cabin waste was imperative and were working towards the July 3 2021 deadline for the Single Use Plastics Law. Now there is no cabin waste.