Breaking The Plastic Habit

04 October 2021

The Plastic Problem

The increasing problem the planet has with plastic is well documented and the reality of our collective responsibility to take steps to use it more sustainably is undeniable. The negative impact non-recyclable plastic is having is evident if you visit almost any beach anywhere in the world and even more visible in the abundance of campaigns against plastic . As we know most plastic isn't biodegradable and doesn't rot like paper or food, so it lingers in the environment for hundreds of years. To put into perspective the scale of the problem: each year, 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40% of that is single-use plastic (SUP), that will only be used once before it's disposed of. More than eight million tonnes of that plastic enters the world's oceans each year, and most of that escapes from land.

To compound the issue, not all plastic can be recycled due either to its composition, or how expensive or challenging it can be to do. Some coffee cups, for example, have a waterproof plastic lining which can make them difficult to recycle. Every day seven million cardboard coffee cups are thrown away but only one in 400 are recycled. Whilst there is clearly a need for alternative materials to be used, the creation of these alternatives is driven by one major force: the will of people to consistently find, and use, alternatives to SUP’s.

What ICDBP is doing to reduce single use plastics

At ICD Brookfield Place, we recognise that reducing single-use plastics is a collective responsibility and minimising the use shouldn’t become an inconvenience when visiting the building or coming to work. Furthermore, taking steps to reduce SUP’s can be an uplifting, celebratory act of community-building that brings people together around a common goal.

In June we launched the ‘Breaking the Plastic Habit’ campaign, an initiative that brought together building management, ICD Brookfield Place’s tenants, and local artists to set a precedent for sustainable single-use plastic reduction. The campaign was our first major step to ensure that ICD Brookfield Place is as environmentally conscious in respect to plastic waste as it is to many other aspects of its eco footprint, such as the building materials, carbon emissions, and energy consumption.

Before launching the campaign officially, we audited our corporate office’s single-use plastic intake in our supply chain. As a result, we removed or replaced more than 14 products – everything from condiment and snack packaging, plastic food wrap and water bottles. As a result 14,292 individual items of SUP’s will be avoided in just 12 months. The team then produced a manual for tenants to support them in reducing SUPs from their own operations, which would be distributed at a campaign launch event. The process of producing the manual shone a light on the fact that many of ICD Brookfield Place’s tenants are already leaders in sustainability, and the upcoming campaign would complement the approach many were taking to reduce their use of non-recyclable materials.

The campaign had to, however, go beyond action and instruction and be inclusive, vibrant and people focused. The beating heart of ICD Brookfield Place is, surprisingly, not a physical space. It is its community, and the space is no more alive than when the building’s people and visitors come together to celebrate and advocate for sustainability. The campaign was brought to life, by two local artists: Nouri Flayhan, a Lebanese-Dubai-based illustrator; and Christine Wilson of Peahead, a Dubai-based eco-friendly and upcycling artist.

We launched the campaign on 3rd June by inviting the tenants to ICD Brookfield Place’s Summer Garden where an upcycled installation by artist Christine Wilson took centre stage. The beautiful installation was created by collecting tenant waste and proved an engaging and thought-provoking centre piece to the event where tenants gathered to pledge to reduce SUP’s by holding pledge signboards. Free water bottles were given to each tenant to replace single-use plastic bottles, a common culprit in the pervasive plastic waste problem.

To reduce usage of SUPs on a daily basis, a water refill station was installed, and free bottles given out at the campaign’s launch event. The refill station was branded with campaign artwork by Nouri Flayhan and placed at the front of the community hub space, Niche, to become a part of the community’s daily routine, in its 4 months of operations we’ve saved over 14,000 plastic bottles.

Flayhan, known for her quirky animations and illustrations, has been an advocate for sustainability and environmental protection since her school days. She worked on the branding for the campaign and illustrated the manual which was distributed to the building’s tenants during the event in the Summer Garden. Nouri’s ‘Breaking the Plastic Habit’ work joined an impressive list of sustainability campaigns that includes the likes of Gucci, Adidas’ Run for the Oceans campaign, and Selfridges.

"This project is for my younger self. I remember taking part in the environment club after school and always making sure that I was doing my best when it came to taking care of the environment, and just being conscious and aware of everything that was happening around me. I remember picking fruit and vegetables whilst growing up, and my grandfather always teaching me to appreciate the land around us and have a deep connection with it." – Nouri Flayhan

Wilson, known for her upcycling and reinterpretation of a Spinneys bag that is now sold in several shops in Dubai, continued her work for the campaign by hosting upcycling workshops for tenants in Niche. Speaking about the campaign she said:

“Up to 40 percent of the plastic waste produced by the users of ICD Brookfield Place is single-use plastic bottles – one of the easiest swaps for eco-friendly alternatives. I wanted to bring this unnecessary plastic back into full view, and there are not many organizations brave enough to allow their waste to be put on full display the way ICD Brookfield Place did.” – Artist, Christine Wilson

ICD Brookfield Place - where community and sustainability go hand in hand

Mixed-use and communal buildings have long been catalysts for change, and spaces like ICD Brookfield Place have the power to not only shape the face of an urban environment or a place of work, but the attitudes and behaviours of those that visit and inhabit it towards fundamentally world-shaping outcomes. If there was ever a reason to choose a place of work or headquarters for an organisation with sustainability credentials at its core, it must surely be this.

“I am proud to have been part of this project which carries a simple message of positivity: Yes, you can break the plastic habit.” - Artist Christine Wilson

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