Single-use plastics can be convenient, but more often than not, they have a lasting negative impact on our planet. They end up in our landfills, oceans, and ecosystems creating problems for animals and plants alike. In fact, half of all plastic in the world was created in just the last 13 years, and according to National Geographic, only 9% of that plastic is actually recycled. That is 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste with nowhere to go. These plastics are then unable to biodegrade, so they just continue to break down into smaller and smaller microplastics which causes more systemic problems.
Cleaning up this mess isn’t an easy task, and it will take the participation of both consumers and companies alike. Consumers should be educated about plastic-free business initiatives, so they can make a difference with their spending dollars. At the same time, companies have a responsibility to be more aware of their own impact on the Earth and should be held accountable to create programs to curb their plastic use. Here are some examples of initiatives taken by companies to do just that. This information can be used by consumers like you to make more informed decisions.
In an industry that isn’t exactly known for being eco-friendly, there is one all-inclusive cruise line that stands out: Virgin Voyages is making efforts to be the first to address and reverse the impact this industry has on the planet. One of their initiatives includes the decision to completely ban all single-use plastics on board. That means you won’t find any single-use cups, bags or plastic wear. In addition to their plastic-free efforts, they are also getting rid of buffets in order to reduce food waste aboard.
Plastic Bank has an innovative solution to the age-old plastic problem. Their premise is simple: they encourage people in impoverished areas where plastic pollution is usually an even bigger problem to collect thrown-away plastics. Plastic Bank will then buy the plastic from those people, and finally, they sell the plastic to corporations to then recycle it for reuse. Companies like Plastic Bank show us that even some of the most simple solutions can have a giant impact on our Earth.
Norton Point started in 2015 in an attempt to make a difference in the sunglasses industry. They have made the promise, “to clean up one pound of plastic from the ocean for every product it sells.” Their products are sourced from recycled ocean plastics and plant-based materials. In addition to their internal efforts, they donate 5% of their net profits to research, education, and development projects based around ocean plastics.
Starting in 2014 with a pledge to reduce waste and increase recycling efforts, McDonald’s is among the few fast-food giants dedicated to a cleaner future. More recently, they have made a commitment to source all of their packaging from recycled or certified companies by 2020. Not only that, but they also have held contests such as the “NextGen Cup Challenge,” which was a partnership they had with Starbucks to create a more sustainable cup.
In an attempt to make a difference, Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans to develop a shoe made solely from recycled ocean plastics called the “UltraBoost” sneakers. The newest model, “The Ultra Boost Uncaged” proved extremely popular selling an impressive 11,000 units in the first hour of release. Another development is their pledge to stop using “virgin” plastics like polyester in favor of recycled materials by 2024. On the retail side, they have begun phasing out things like plastic bags in order to further their eco-friendly initiatives.
ASDA is a food supply chain that has many different eco-plans. Originally, they had a plan to reduce their plastic use by 10% by 2018, but they didn’t stop there. They now plan to eliminate all their single-use cups and cutlery by the end of this year. In addition to that, they started a zero-profit, £1 reusable coffee cup program as an alternative to single-use cups. Not only does the cup save the environment, but using the cup even gets you a discount. All of these efforts assist in their goal to make 100% of their packaging recyclable by 2025.
Recycling isn’t as simple as many people tend to believe. Many times, companies simply don’t recycle because it isn’t worth the time or money. Nestlé plans to combat that thinking by phasing out all non-recyclable and, “hard to recycle,” packaging by 2025. They also began the funding of the Nestlé Institute of Packaging Sciences which allows for research on eco-friendly products/packaging. Using that research, they intend to roll out innovative water dispensers by 2020 to both cater to people who use refillable bottles and to attempt to reduce the number of plastic bottles sold.
Plastic waste is a big problem, and sometimes business initiatives aren’t all that clear. It takes research to understand what companies are actually committed to improving the planet. We hope this information was able to shed a little light on practices companies are taking today to reduce their plastic use. In addition, this article can also help you, as a consumer, decide where to spend your money. Support companies taking these initiatives rather than those that continue to hurt the Earth with no regard for their practices in plastics.