Packaging comes in all shapes and sizes, and materials. The most eco-friendly ones include compostable packaging, wrapping paper, glass, and even cornstarch, banana leaf, and mushroom-made packaging. With these as materials, there is no reason for big companies and stores to have the need for plastic and nonbiodegradable products. The only reason to use plastic, single-use packaging, and non-eco-friendly is money. These companies need to prioritize the environment over capital gain and their budget. This also goes for those creating sustainable packaging, and help make them more readily available for those who wish to use it. The more waste provided to individuals in society, the more waste gets dumped into our ocean. By cutting back on single-use products, recycling, and looking for newer ways to protect our oceans, we can save our planet.
Individuals who want to cut back on their single-use products and plastic use can do a few simple steps. These could include things like refill products such as laundry detergent, foods (ie. grains, pasta, fruit, beans, etc), household fabrics, and using reusable grocery bags like tote bags. Being aware of single-use products is also a good start. Looking for and avoiding them is important to cut back. These can be plastic wraps on meat, plastic water bottles, takeout containers, styrofoam cups, lids, etc. All of these things can be modified to fit the environment better. Use paper wrap for meat and buy from a butcher, bring a stainless steel water bottle out with you, buy smaller meals to reduce takeout, or bring your own containers.
On top of using better materials for packaging, we as a society need to reduce the ways materials that cannot be changed or modified, enter our oceans. The best way is to be consistent with our practices in the ways we dispose of our waste. Recycling properly is one of the most efficient ways to ensure bad waste gets disposed of the way it should be, and not in our oceans. Although, this can not always be ensured as one bad material in a batch of recycled waste, cannot be processed successfully.
Our cities can also look for newer ways to protect the sea. One way could be using mesh screens or grates at major dumping pipelines. This could catch big pieces of waste before they get sent into the ocean. The city could monitor these areas on scheduled dates like they do waste management. This would have to be engineered well though, to make sure the animals that live in pipes and water are taken into consideration. Another idea could be getting planes, or using ships/submarines, with nets to pull our waste. Like the first idea, monitoring would be needed. With this idea areas like “the North Atlantic Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Pacific Gyre, and the Indian Ocean Gyre” (the ocean cleanup, 2022). One of these areas is also known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch which is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean” (national geographic society, 2022). These areas are those with the most waste collection in our oceans. With a way to reduce some of the waste that is already there, we can help make a quicker improvement alongside all of the other methods.
Waste produced by packaging is one of the most harmful causes of climate control, and the endangerment of many species. Our planet depends on the group effort and agreement that sustainable products must be used, as well as on changing our ways of recycling and cleanup. With these efforts put in place, we can reverse the effects of packaging waste in the oceans.
Essay by: Eve Cowens
Florida International University