Hugging trees and using plastic can coexist. Before you jump on the #plasticfree bandwagon let’s establish a few truths. Here are 5 misconceptions of the #plasticfree movement that plague our society:
Misconception #1: All Plastic Is Bad
There are many different types of plastic. Some plastics are even plant based (stay tuned for our next blog as we dig into this topic). You might be familiar with the demonized “single use plastics”. What is a single use plastic? Well as it sounds, it is plastic manufactured for the intention of a single use. Common examples include plastic cutlery, plastic bottle, and straws. Most single use plastics are for packaging or medical equipment. Single use plastic is also common in the medical industry. However, its use is deemed as necessary and rarely plagued with the same lash back that other single use plastics receive.
It is understandable why there is so much focus on packaging; it accounts for 47% of all plastic waste. But there is a bigger issue at hand. Most single use plastics are still recyclable. The most common materials used for single use plastics include, PET, LDPE, HDPE, PP, and PS. These commonly used thermoplastics are recyclable. However, of the plastic waste only 9% ends up being recycled, whereas 79% ends up in landfills or littered. Last time I checked, your plastic water bottle doesn’t jump up, grow legs and dispose of itself.
So why, when we know that plastic waste is littering our oceans, are we not disposing of our plastic properly? Perhaps we have misguided efforts. We expend energy protesting against plastic instead of for proper waste management. The reality is that using plastic properly is often MORE environmentally friendly than alternatives. Glass and metal take more energy to produce, to transport, and to recycle.
Misconception #2: Many Manufacturers are Negligent of their Environmental Impact
On the contrary, many manufacturers are very cautious of their carbon footprint. The United States has pretty high standards when it comes to ethical manufacturing. These standards, which include protocol for waste, recycling, and energy usage, are part of the reason why products Made in the USA, sometimes have slightly elevated prices. Although you will save in shipping costs with domestic manufacturing, ethical practices for manufacturing do drive prices up past foreign competitors.
Once again, let’s encourage U.S. manufacturing of our plastic products if we are looking for environmentally stable manufacturing practices. Not only can we bring more jobs to the people closest to us and help our local economy, but we can help the environment.
Misconception #3: Plastic is the Problem
Like Many “Issues,” Plastic Waste Typically Boils Down to One Factor: Responsibility. We don’t want to touch on too many hot button topics, however, I find a similar logic pattern for the #plasticfree movement as I do for the gun banning movement. Inanimate objects are often blamed or demonized because humans aren’t held responsible. No issue will get better if we don’t acknowledge the source of the problem. Just like parents are responsible for the kids they bring into the world, we are responsible for the waste we produce.
Being a good steward of the planet requires some work on our part. Reusing and recycling plastic products is often seen as a hassle. Since we are too lazy to wash out, break down, and separate our containers we feel more justified in just skipping plastic use altogether. Plastic littering our oceans will require a huge shift from #plasticfree mindset to #plasticresponsibility. Responsibility might seem less catchy or cool, but it is the only thing that will bring real change.
Misconception #4: Manufacturers Don’t Understand Plastic’s Environmental Impact
There is a misconception that plastic manufacturers do not feel empathy or are not aware of the plastic waste issue. This is simply not true. I was speaking with President of our Company, Scott Cooley, months ago now. He said that when he was out fishing with his friend he was horrified at all the mylar balloons in the ocean. And since that moment he has banned buying mylar balloons and will never release balloons into the sky. Many other leaders in the plastics industry are aware of the environmental impact of irresponsible plastic use. Many of them, like Scott, are even moved with compassion unto banning the personal misuse of certain products.
Once again we are talking about logic and responsibility. Logic tells us that inanimate objects in and of themselves cannot be “irresponsible” or “responsible”. Logic also tells us, in the case of the balloons, that what goes up must come down. Thus, responsibility should urge us to properly dispose of plastic, or even ban the personal use of something we find specifically irrelevant or harmful. Take it upon yourself to think smart, and be responsible.
Misconception #5: Our Efforts Are Pointless
We can be part of the solution. Pollution wouldn’t exist without us, and pollution will continue to exist as long as we exist. However, plastic is not the enemy! In many cases it is actually MORE environmentally friendly to use plastic over the heavier more energy expending alternatives. However, in order to steward our planet well we must take care. Take responsibility for how we use, reuse, and recycle our products.
The Plastics Industry’s Response to the #PlasticFree Movement
These 5 misconceptions of the #plasticfree movement remind us to refocus our energy to a truly sustainable ecosystem. The plastics industry is always innovating to find better ways to produce, use, reuse and recycle plastics for the sake of our future. We cannot do it alone! Our consumers need to be mindful. We do our part, and want you to do yours! Dedicated to our future generations, dedicated to stewarding the planet, and dedicated to progress.
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