Apple has just recently released the new iPhone 12. SpaceX has been able to create a rocket engine that lands itself back down to Earth. Tesla has become the most valued automobile company while selling the first widespread electric car. When will it be time for plastic to retire and for there to be a new sustainable way of packaging products? With all these technological advancements in current society, it would be exciting to see the same advancement within the sustainability field. Every year, there are 348 million tons of plastic being produced, and eight million tons of plastic waste entering the oceans (Proche). This is a substantial amount of plastic that is ruining our Earth’s ecosystems, bodies of water, atmosphere, weather, and other important aspects of the Earth that are necessary for our survival. The future of sustainable packaging is coming near as there are more individuals aware of their carbon footprint, leading to the creation of eco-friendly packaging.
The first step to initiating a widespread use of eco-friendly packaging is to invent a product that can be easily manufactured and widely distributed to many countries. If the product is able to accomplish these two things, the success of this new packaging will be attained. Because the United States and other countries acquire many of its products from China, the packaging would need to improve there first in order for it to be effective (Allen & Pira). Although the United States manufactures products within the country, the percentage of those products made versus the ones made in China are not comparable. Wishful thinking, when the United States has many environmentally friendly packaging options available, other countries will follow suit and this will end up leading a chain reaction towards a more sustainable packaging future. However, the first issue to combat when dealing with this is to find available packaging alternatives that are cheap for companies to produce. The main issue when finding these options is that because plastic is widespread, it has become cheap and it can cost cents for a company to package a product, whereas other sustainable companies pay extra for this benefit. Luckily, there are alternatives that have been discovered and are ready to be used in the manufacturing sector of packaging.
The first major discovery of alternative plastics is bioplastics. Bioplastics are “biodegradable or compostable plastics made from natural substances” (Eartheasy). This type of packaging is a great alternative instead of plastic, or at least what is available so far. Sadly, many of these bioplastics do not break down in “home composts, landfills, or loose in the environment” and many “require commercial composting facilities” (Eartheasy). These facilities are not always available to consumers and because of this eco-friendly packaging, this will not benefit the landfills and oceans gifted with these hard-to-break-down plastics. Fortunately, there are other bioplastics made out of corn, which means they can biodegrade in the environment given time. Because of the way it is manufactured, “bioplastic is durable. It can be used to make bottles, bioplastic films, and other food containers” (Shippr). Although bioplastics have their downsides, this is another step in the right direction that is needed to conform to the way packaging is produced.
Another issue that remains is to persuade consumers to choose this type of sustainable packaging. From the 1900s to now, plastic has been used in almost every package, creating an unknown amount of waste for the planet. If given the choice to choose plastic packaging versus organic packaging, regular citizens in society would most likely opt for the unsustainable method simply because they are used to it. Although there are newer methods of sustainable packaging like mushroom packaging, seaweed-based packaging, pressed hay, and banana leaves (Eartheasy), who knows if individuals will be willing to pay the sustainability tax that goes along with purchasing a product with sustainable packaging. With this in mind, the companies creating this new and improved type of packaging need to inspire everyday citizens to use the more sustainable packaging instead of the kind they are normalized to. This will be the most important step to overcome: persuading the normal citizen to use an alternative form of packaging, even if it is more expensive.
With this in mind, sustainable packaging is available to companies and the public, yet getting them to use this kind of packaging is the issue. Bioplastics are a start to creating more widespread sustainable packaging around the world. If companies are to start buying into more sustainable packaging, this can create a chain reaction for the rest of the world, especially if China were to start this movement. In order for the future of sustainable packaging to become the present, individuals need to understand and care for this issue as it is bringing more waste into the world every year. With the unprecedented technological advancements available today, establishing sustainable packaging should have been already available. The future of sustainable packaging is here.
Essay by: Katie Spreitzer
Desert Vista High School