Almost everything we buy from convenience stores, grocery stores, and even online shopping, is encased in plastic. For companies, it is an inexpensive and durable way to package their products. However, plastics biodegrade to a point (into microplastics) which continue to pollute our environment and us through the sea life we consume. The production of plastics themselves also release carbon emissions into the atmosphere. More companies should consider the use of sustainable and biodegradable packaging rather than its harmful counterpart in order to reduce carbon emissions and microplastics that affect the food chain.
First, if less plastics were produced, it would mean lessening our carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Not only does the production of plastics cause harm to the environment, but so does the extraction of materials in order to make them. Fossil fuels are needed in order to make plastic such as oil, gas, and coal (Bauman, 2019, para. 7) which cause emissions to be released. Furthermore, the factory production of plastics causes massive emissions of greenhouse gasses. For example, in 2015 “184.3 to 213 million metric tons of carbon dioxide” was released into the environment due to plastic production (Bauman, 2019, para. 11). This amount of pollution causes so much harm to not only the environment and contributes to climate change, but also to us as we breathe in these emissions.
Lastly, companies should consider plastic alternatives because of how harmful plastics are to the food chain. Unfortunately, when plastics break down, they do not go away. Instead, they become microplastics in our oceans and are harmful to sea life. These tiny pieces of plastic are consumed by plankton, then small fish, leading to our consumption. Though there is not extensive research on how these particles affect humans, we do know that canned tuna specifically contains high amounts of mercury that could reach toxic levels. We also know how microplastics affect the marine life that consumes them. According to Food Safety Magazine (2018, paras. 19-20), harmful plastics can cause a fish’s endocrine system to malfunction, male fish to have an altered gene expression, and affect the reproduction systems of all sea life that are exposed to it. Reducing the use of single-use plastics, like packaging, can greatly lessen these effects on not only marine life, but ultimately humans as well.
In conclusion, plastics are very harmful to our planet, specifically in carbon emissions due to production, and marine life and humans as microplastics make their way up the food chain. There are alternatives to plastic packaging that are helpful to the environment rather than harmful due to the ability to reuse them such as glass, stainless steel, bamboo, beeswax cloth, paper, and other similar materials. We have seen companies altogether getting rid of packaging for in store purchases such as Lush. These small steps pave the way to a healthier environment, ocean, and humans. If we do our part as well and help reduce the use of plastics, as simple as taking your own cloth bag to the grocery or convenience store, we can make a huge impact on the health of our environment.
Nara, R., Dr. (2018, December). Microplastic contamination of the food supply chain. Food safety magazine.
Essay by: Mikayla O’Connor
California Baptist University