As a prospective Marine and Coastal Science Student, the quite literal sea of never-ending plastic waste which has consumed our oceans is a key reason as to why I am joining this important STEM field. It has been known for years that ocean plastic will outnumber the fish that are known to be in the ocean by 2040. It is important to note that again these are all, known fish, since only 30% of our oceans have been discovered. So, what can major companies like Dura-Pack do to ensure that there is an ocean left for students in the marine sciences like me to study? The answer is easy from a student perspective, move from plastic to biodegradable packaging. Now it is understood from a business standpoint this seems to not be an essential consideration right now since companies rely on the cheapest material to be made into something simple to then be sold to companies in bulk and make sure that their reliant companies purchase again because plastic is single use, and the process happens again and again in a whole money-hungry cycle. From a business standpoint single use plastic is efficient, reliable, and it is what drives consumers and companies back to spend money at the end of the day but, as the seller who contributes to a large percentage of ocean plastic pollution in the ocean, it is time to do some forward thinking.

Being from California, we had a temporary ban on plastic bags within grocery stores in 2019. This ban started to make customers think about where their plastic was going for once, and in doing so, the media took the opportunity to focus on the importance of banning on plastic straws. A large percentage of customers did not return to using single use plastic products once they became educated on the detrimental effects plastic has on our oceans With the continuous rise of environmental conservation efforts, consumers are learning that their dollar makes the difference when purchasing products, leading some to turn to buying reusable grocery bags, re-using their single use plastics from stores and some going as far as to purchase things in bulk with their own containers to opt-out of contributing to single use plastic waste.

Being a plastic company that wants to care about the ocean is highly appealing to the public but, consumers that purchase plastic products will one day be a thing of the past due to the fast pace in which people have learned their direct contribution with ocean pollution. A simple fix within the eyes of a company would be to place or promote recycling centers but there is a large lack of recycling centers in communities with high diversity rates within the U.S. Recycling places are not what will make Dura-Pack a sustainable or successful company. It is my personal estimation that plastic will be a thing of the past in the next 50 years therefore leaving the entire brand behind if a large amount of work is not done starting now.

So, how will biodegradable packaging help and how can it be done is what some companies are starting to question as time starts to run out? There are a lot of biodegradable materials being made by college students that Dura-Pack can look to partner with on curating a new sustainable line. One brand in particular that has caught my eye is a bioplastic company called Mo.Na (@mona.gems via Instagram). Mo.Na has come up with biodegradable earrings to be an alternative to the popular resin earrings that teens have been buying recently.

The two young female, POC (person of color), college STEM students found a way to make durable plastic-like earrings, biodegradable (soak in water for 12 minutes and the specific enzymes used to make the bioplastic break it down completely). The biodegradable material is just as durable and hard as the plastic used now and consumers can dispose of the bags themselves by soaking them in the sink or they can continue to toss the bags which then leads to a natural biodegrading process at the dumps. The best part about this material that may be overlooked is that if a bag made of bioplastic finds its way back to the ocean, it will biodegrade there on its own as well since it will be in water for a prolonged amount of time.

Dura-Pack switching to biodegradable plastics are essential part in keeping not only our ocean animals healthy but our waters as well as the temperatures of our oceans at bay. Although it may not seem cost-effective now, looking into using bioplastics as soon as possible, Dura-Pack will be ahead of the other plastic companies. The influential switch to sustainable materials will draw more attention to the brand and will draw more support from consumers as well as environmentalists across the globe. Our oceans need to be saved as soon as possible and by Dura-Pack making the first step as a major plastic company to incorporate new materials into their products, it will show that the brand cares about them more than the other plastic companies that stick with greenwashing their customers. Although it will cost money to develop and make profit margins a bit smaller, Dura-Pack will be saving everyone their jobs within the plastic (soon to be bioplastic) industry and money by spending a bit more to save the oceans from getting worse in which we would have to spend more to save a wrecked ocean. The solution will take trial and error but when the company pulls it off it will set them ahead of the game and will be making tremendous change for our oceans.

Works Cited:

Parker, Laura. Plastic Trash Flowing Into the Seas Will Nearly Triple by 2040 Without Drastic Action. National Geographic: July 23rd, 2020.

Essay by: Morgan Whitt
Rancho Bernardo High School, Western Washington University

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