Who produces 6 million tons of plastic every year? According to a CBS News article from 2019, those companies are Mars, Nestle, Coca-Cola, and Danone. Those are just four popular companies. Four. According to Ocean Conservancy, 8 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean. This plastic is often mistaken for food by birds and sea creatures like turtles and squids. Not only does this lead to the contamination of wildlife which ultimately speeds up the process of extinction for many species, this plastic can also end up in fish and other sea animals that we consume directly.
Why should companies adopt environmentally friendly packaging? Plastic bottles take around 450 years to biodegrade and plastic bags take 1,000 years to biodegrade in landfills. This is bad enough in that we have limited space available to us in terms of areas for landfills, but as I’ve already pointed out, a concerning amount of that plastic ends up in oceans where it causes real, long-term damage to ecosystems that we rely on for food. Humans are heading towards a point where there will be irreversible damage done to the environment, the worst of which we may still be able to stop or limit the impact of. This is where environmentally friendly packaging comes into play.
There are a number of environmentally friendly packaging options already invented and readily available. For example, there are metallic, reusable straws. There are take-out packages made from recycled materials rather than styrofoam that do not take nearly as long to break down. We have reusable water bottles that can greatly reduce the number of plastic bottles that are consumed and thrown out. With the increase in delivery, we also have access to cardboard made of recycled materials and the option to take these cardboard boxes to local recycling plants so they can be reused again. We even have access to environmentally safe glitter made from materials that biodegrade quickly into the environment and don’t stick around for small animals to consume. There is not a lack of options when it comes to environmentally friendly packaging and materials nor are these things difficult to produce. There is no reason that multi-million or multi-billion-dollar companies couldn’t make the switch to more environmentally friendly types of packaging.
Companies need to make the switch to environmentally friendly types of packaging to reduce the waste they produce. Yes, individuals can make small changes to their lifestyles as well. We can make use of reusable water bottles, we can support environmentally friendly companies where possible, and we can walk to the park a few blocks over rather than drive. These are all good, positive changes that individuals can make, but individuals aren’t the main problem when it comes to waste and climate change. Major companies are the ones producing most of the product and emissions that end up ruining our environment, and people don’t always have a readily accessible, cheap, environmentally friendly option that they can go with over a name brand company. Companies need to make the change to environmentally friendly packaging, because they are the ones with the money, power, and ability to do so in a major way that would make the biggest difference. These changes cost more money initially as changes are made to the basic systems companies have been using for decades, but these are changes we should be encouraging if not forcing through law. Climate change and environmental damage are ticking clocks, and we are running out of time. Why should companies adopt environmentally friendly packaging and practices despite the initial inconvenience and cost? Because if they don’t, we might not have a future at all, and you can’t make money off of graves.
Essay by: Delaney Newman
Arizona State University