I am a firm believer in recycling and reducing the world’s plastic usage overall. I carry around my tote bags, my reusable straws, biodegradable and recycled water bottles, and pick up trash I see littered outside. But even with my personal contributions and beliefs, I do not think that all recycling is the made equally.

The question in this instance is whether or not packaging recycling works or not, and I regret to say that I do not think this is a very effective system. Paper and plastic products that are used in the packaging industry, while lightweight and cheap, can only be recycled a given amount of times before they are no longer usable. This varies depending on the exact material but in comparison, natural resources such as glass and aluminum are infinitely recyclable because they can continuously be melted down and remolded into a new shape and identity. I propose that instead of using single use plastic or seeming recyclable cardboard for packaging purposes, to use biodegrade substances to create more efficient and environmentally conscious products. Sure cardboard and recycled plastics are a better alternative to single use plastic but with our fight with climate change and deforestation, there are even better alternatives to pack products. Food edible products that are typically wrapped in a sort of plastic, seaweed or rice paper wrapping could be a cheap and beneficial alternative that costs little to nothing to produce, and does not change the taste of the product. For boxed packing options, corn starch packaging would be a great alternative that is oftentimes edible as well. This is a sturdy imitation of cardboard that is cheaply manufactured with corn starch, an easily accessible ingredient, and is also biodegradable. This would lessen the confusion of whether a package is recyclable as well as lessen the amount of waste a consumer would put out. Another good packaging option that is extremely eco-friendly is the biodegradable packing peanut. It has a similar composition to a “Cheeto Puff” in the sense that once it hits a liquid, it will completely dissolve and the consumer will not have a second thought about it.

Using any or all of this products will not only elevate your companies products, but it will also make the consumers of the products you package more environmentally conscious as well. I personally would spring for the environmentally conscious packaging if it were offered to m, regardless of whether or not it would cost me a bit more to do so because it is the more thoughtful purchase to make. Now would also be a great opportunity to launch something like this seeing that there has been a spike in small businesses since the start of the pandemic, and many of them have been catering to organic, holistic and cruelty free sourcing, testing and packaging. While these biodegradable options will not be as flashy as some of the aluminum or plastic counterparts offered, it has its own sort of flashy label on it in the sense that it is minimal waste and helping the ecosystem one product at a time.

Essay by: Alana Thigpen
Euclid High School

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