The environment is something that has been important to me for a while now. With climate change becoming such a big part of both our lives now and our lives in the future, it is more important now than ever to take action and start doing something to combat this deadly problem. For me, one of the things that we can do to start moving in this direction of making less garbage and limiting the massive amount of one time use products that we use. Something that falls under this category is packaging, which is something that most of us use very often in our lives. Companies such as Amazon ship millions of packages a day, and while they often use cardboard packaging, there are other companies who don’t. According to CBS News, companies such as Coca-Cola, Nestle, Mars, and Danone produce a total of 6 million metric tons of plastic every year. Coca-Cola on it’s own is responsible for half of this. It is important to keep in mind though that this is only four of the millions (perhaps even billions) of companies that use plastic packaging.
Taking this information into light, it is easy to understand why there is a need for more eco-friendly packaging. Focusing briefly on Coca-Cola alone, while most of the bottles that they use are made of plastic which could, in theory, be recycled, it is clear that not all of it is. It is far easier to throw a plastic bottle in the garbage instead of stopping, cleaning it out with water, and then recycling it like is suggested. Sometimes in places, there isn’t even an option to recycle in the first place. As a result, not only is plastic thrown in the trash, but it is also littered throughout the environment, which we know has led to dozens of problems for our planet. One of these problems is located in the pacific between California and Hawaii, in the form of an ‘island’ that was created due to the mixing of three separate currents meeting in one place. This island has been dubbed the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and it is estimated that “Microplastics make up 94 percent of an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch.”(Parker, 2018). In total, when counting all other plastic materials, as this 94% mostly consists of plastic used for packaging, there are 79,000 metric tons (or 174,165,187 pounds) of plastic that makes up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Besides the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, there are other devastating effects that the use of plastic in packaging has had on our environment. Looking at oceans alone, it is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Other than this, the plastic rings that hold cans and bottles together have been known to get caught around the necks of animals when they are not disposed of properly. Plastic itself doesn’t degrade quickly, taking an estimated 450-1000 years before it decays fully. This means that plastic will sit in places such as garbage dumps for literally centuries. It can’t be burned without releasing horrible toxins into the air, and even there is a chance the plastic won’t completely go away. It affects the cleanliness of our water, putting more chemicals into it. Even looking away from the environment, there are dozens of health issues plastic creates for humans. The increased risk of cancer in both men and women. Like I mentioned before, horrible toxins get released into the air. However, this doesn’t happen only when plastic is burned, it also happens in the process of creating it. In the end, I feel as though when you look at all of this information, it is easy for me to see why companies should switch over to a more eco-friendly means of packaging their products.
Ivanova, Irina. (2019, Mar. 14). “These 4 Companies Produce 6 Million Tons of Plastic Every Year.” Retrieved from: These Four Companies Produce Six Million Tons of Plastic Every Year
Parker, Laura. (2018, Mar. 14). “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Isn’t What You Think it Is.” Retrieved from: Great Pacific Garbage Patch Plastics Environment
Essay by: Margaret Jean Helling
Darrington High School