The COVID-19 pandemic has caused consumer online orders from companies such as Amazon to increase at an unprecedented rate. With retail stores running low in stock of personal items and body care, everyone is relying on packages to be sent to their homes with the proper materials to help them survive and keep themselves healthy during this pandemic. However, as more people continue to order online more packaging material is filling up our recycle and garbage bins. Companies should adopt environmentally friendly packaging because it is cheap, reusable and can easily be biodegraded by the environment. According to Styrofoam, a common material used for packaging is not biodegradable and it cannot be recycled which means this adds to the more “stuff” that enters our garbage cans. Styrofoam also contains the chemical called benzene, regularly found in glue and cleaning products which is a poisonous substance that is harmful to plants and animals and can affect the environment by contaminating water supply and soil.

Plastic, another common packaging material, is relatively cheap and can be recycled however it cannot be biodegraded. While it has many conveniences such as its durability, utility and ability to be molded into solid objects, it is a nuisance to get rid of. According to it takes approximately 400 to 1,000 years for plastic bags to fully decompose but even that is just a guess. This is where the issue of protecting the environment comes into play, many people tend to disregard sending plastic to the recycling bin and simply add it into the garbage. Thus, we have thousands of tons of plastic and Styrofoam that are being sent to landfills which sit there and do nothing but contaminate the surrounding soil, landfill space and the air. While we are currently going through an economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic it is important that we don’t forget that we have an environmental crisis that we have been dealing with for several decades either. If companies don’t adopt environmentally friendly packaging soon then we will have even more problems to worry about once this pandemic comes to an end. Fortunately, it is not too late for companies and people alike to start making a change.

Eco friendly packaging uses resources such as paper, cotton and cardboard that can be decomposed at a faster rate and is more sustainable than Styrofoam and plastic. Not only will these materials save companies money, but it will also be healthier for the environment. This would be considered a win-win situation because companies will be able to spend less money and energy for packaging resources and less chemicals will be put into our Earth. While it will be difficult to substitute some of the plastic packaging, companies need to look at the future and make investments towards the well-being of our world. Only time will tell for how long our environment will be able to last with the constant input of chemicals and waste. As the primary source of consumer goods, companies need to recognize how traditional packaging methods are ruining the soil and water we use every day. Companies have the perfect opportunity to adopt more environmentally friendly packaging right now when everyone is relying on them during this pandemic and they should take advantage of it. Overall, we as a people have the responsibility to protect the environment we live in and we should not take for granted the resources we have at our disposal.

Essay by: Mark Daniels
Western Washington University

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