I have had the chance to interview Ulrich Krzyminski, the founder of BEYONDPLASTIC in the middle of his campaign to encourage all of us to solve the plastic pollution crisis. We discussed his views of the problem and the solution. As an expert in the matter, his input is very valuable.
We also discussed the award he just launched. This beautiful initiative challenges all of us to think out of the box and to come up with creative solutions to avoid plastic packaging.
I let you read the interview to learn more!
1) Tell us a bit more about Beyond Plastic: how did it start? When? Why?
I have worked for a long time in the printing and packaging industry where traditionally paper and cardboard are used as materials. Over the years I saw more and more plastic used for packaging which in most cases I do not like for environmental and aesthetic reasons.
I started BEYONDPLASTIC as a private initiative end of 2019 as a platform to connect people and exchange ideas for a world with less plastic.
2) What is your wildest dream in terms of packaging?
I would love to see us return to responsible packaging. It doesn’t make any sense to wrap our food, care products, household products and everything else that consumers use within days in materials which will remain in the world for centuries.
3) What do you think will be the breakthrough to reduce plastic use?
The first step has been made and we are finally becoming aware that we have a plastic pollution problem. Now people with different backgrounds, interests, resources and ideas are starting to make changes. This is good, because I do not think there is only ONE solution or the ONE smart idea or invention, which will make a breakthrough.
It is a long journey, but I am confident. It is a problem we humans created, so we humans can and have to fix it.
4) Do you believe it will come from technology or a behavioural change?
We need a cultural change. Technology (when wisely used) will be a helpful tool to achieve that.
Let’s put quality in front of quantity again.
As consumers we are disconnected from so many products around us. We don’t know who made it, where it came from, what it’s made of and what will happen to it after we have used it. It is time to reconnect!
5) For now, what actions have the most impact to fight plastic pollution?
1. Reduce 2. Reuse 3. Recycle.
And it has to be in this order. The first two are at first glance simple but also tricky, because today’s economy works in such a way that we are all trying to sell each other more stuff.
Regarding recycling – we have recycled metals for centuries, paper and glass for quite a while too, because these materials are technically and energetically well suited for a circular process which is nowadays established and also works commercially. Today, plastic recycling is technically a downcycling, meaning you can make park benches out of transparent plastic bottles and not vice versa. It is a one-way process. But we produce much more plastic bottles than we can use for making park benches, which in my opinion should be made of natural wood and cast iron anyhow.
Today’s recycling rate is in the low single digit percentage range. Increasing this number is good, but it’s not the salvation to the plastic pollution problem. With every piece of plastic not recycled you can only do two things: 1. burn it and at least get energy out of it (but for a high carbon-footprint price) or 2. put it on land and sea.
6) What practical actions can my readers take tomorrow to have the biggest impact?
Use less plastic!
Reduce, reuse and recycle in your world.
Reconnect with the things around you. Try to explore the story behind the products you use. You are more than a consumer. Become aware and act responsibly.
7) Tell us a bit more about the award?
What is it? Mission? Who can take part? When will the winners be announced? Is it the first edition? If not, could you give us an insight of the winner projects of the previous editions.
The Award’s motto is: Let us celebrate the excellence in eco-responsible product & packaging design across the world!
Everyone who has an idea, concept, project, prototype or even a currently used solution which encourages less plastic products, especially less plastic packages. Students, Designers, Engineers, Makers, Creators, Inventors, Artists, Activists, Rocket Scientists, Industry Tycoons…all are welcome!
We will honour the innovation and creativity in sustainable product & packaging design in three categories: I. Most practical impact to reduce the use of plastics, II. Most innovative approach and III. Most beautiful solution. For each category there will be a Gold, Silver and Bronze Award with trophies and cash prizes of more than 5,000 Euros in total.
This is the first time we’ve run the Award, so it is exiting and experimental. So far we have some amazing entries, especially of young people, from all over the world showing their ideas and initiatives.
In our showcase section www.beyondplastic.net/showcase you get an idea what kind of projects we are looking for.
8) Is there any support to bring the ideas of the winners to life?
We will showcase all Award nominees and Award Winners on our webpage and at the Award ceremony which will take place at the end of May.
The vision is that BEYONDPLASTIC will become the platform where people connect and exchange their ideas and find ways together to bring them to life. There is a lot of media coverage now on the plastic pollution problem, which is good for creating awareness. However our approach and focus is more on finding solutions.
So, what do you think about that project? Brilliant isn’t it?
I do know sustainability is your passion and I am sure you are very creative in your own way! I would absolutely love if you take part to the project! Don’t be scared, if you have an idea, jump on the occasion, visit BEYONDPLASTIC’s website and bring your idea to life!
Do you want to read more about zero waste, and how you can avoid plastic pollution? Check out our article on Alternatives to Plastic Packaging and find out Britain’s first plastic free supermarket!
Interview by Marine Leclerc, Founder Of Attitude Organic
Photo by Daniel Romero on Unsplash