Let’s address the elephant in the room, the save the turtles campaign/trend was nothing but a red herring.
It’s not to say that this movement didn’t have value, because it did raise some awareness of how we consume so much plastic and how we can turn to other alternatives. The deeper meaning, however, is that we the consumers are solely responsible for the pollution of plastic in our ocean and that it is the responsibility of the individual to save the planet; ignoring the producers of plastic which are large corporations. Analysis from the Plastic Waste Makers Index found that only 20 companies and banks are responsible for 50 percent, that’s right, half of the world’s production of single-use plastic (Rylander). If companies like Exxon Mobil, being the number one producer of single-use plastic, are producing more plastic than we can keep up with, why is the consumer responsible for managing their carbon footprint? How can we make companies more responsible for their plastic production?
The reality of the situation
Everyone is well aware of plastic polluting our ocean, hence the “save the sea turtles” trend, and how human pollution is impacting climate change with melting ice caps, but you don’t have to travel to beaches or mountains miles away, adding more CO2 to the environment by the way, to see how plastic packaging is littering our grocery stores, retail, and homes. Almost everything in stores has some form of plastic. Some may say it’s just for consumer convenience, and there is some truth to that, but it boils down to the fact that it’s cheap to have plastic packaging. The plastic that surrounds certain goods is often “new plastic” which is cheap and easily made from oil and gas (Sullivan). Companies are always going to put their profit ahead of the consumer, so they’ll do whatever they need to do to make some money. The use of plastic packaging ultimately makes the companies look lazy because sustainable packaging is just as cheap and has more perks such as efficient material usage and less shipping costs (Straessle). While it’s great for companies to make the shift to greener packaging, the pricing of products is always an issue as well.
If we want companies to make sustainable changes to their packaging, we also need to advocate for sustainable prices. There seems to be a trend in which organic or environmentally friendly products seem to cost more for the consumer, negatively impacting certain groups of people. Not everyone can afford to pay the high prices of environmentally friendly products, so they will turn to the cheaper plastic options. We need to discuss the economic disadvantages of the environmental movement and allow people with low incomes, disabilities, and other different backgrounds to speak. This topic is not as black and white as we think.
The responsibility lies on the companies
The simple answer to the prompt “why should more companies adopt environmentally friendly packaging” is that companies should have a greater responsibility to manage how much plastic they generate whether it be product or shipping, these companies need to be held accountable. Holding these companies responsible may come from the government taxing more from companies that produce more plastics, which is why it’s important to vote for leaders that believe in climate change. Politics aside, companies should be incentivized to produce less plastic and gear towards environmentally friendly packaging, at least, because of their ripple effect that is impacting our environment, economy, and even minority groups all around the world.
Essay by: Michelle Rada-Medrano