When you walk into a supermarket you're surrounded by a sea of plastic. It's impossible to escape. But what impact does all this plastic have when it leaves the supermarket?
The Problem With Plastic.
Today, 40 percent of the plastic globally produced is for packaging alone. We've become a society that relies on the convenience that single use plastic provides. Why brew your own cup of coffee when you can go down the street and get a to-go cup? Why waste time preparing a breakfast on a busy day when you can pick up a plastic-wrapped protein bar? With a lack of regulation on food and drink companies, plastic waste is out of control.
Why is plastic so bad?
The way most people see plastic waste is through litter. But plastic's impact expands far past wrappers we see on the side of the road. Some plastic waste ends up on land, but a vast majority ends up in oceans, particularly in countries that are lacking the infrastructure to handle all of the waste produced.
The animals in the oceans are hugely impacted by our convenience driven habits. For example, a study done at the University of Exeter found that in 102 sea turtles studied, every single one of them had micro-plastics in their gut.
We use plastic bags for an average of 12 minutes, yet they take up to a thousand years to decompose. And the problem is, plastic doesn’t break down, it just breaks up, into micro-plastics, which are very small pieces of plastic that pollute the planet and even end up in our own bodies (not a fun thought, right?)
But plastic’s negative impact doesn’t just stop at pollution. The process of producing plastic is an incredibly resource intensive and an environmentally harmful process. Plastic emit greenhouse gasses at every stage of its life cycle - from drilling to source the materials, production, to the process of it breaking down. One way of getting rid of plastic is by incinerating it, which is the process of burning plastic which produces heat for other uses. When plastic is incinerated, it pollutes the air with toxic chemicals, especially impacting nearby communities, leading to damaging health problems, including cancer. Often, plastic incineration plants are placed at the heart of poor and minority communities, making plastic a social justice issue.
Whether it’s burning it, putting it into a landfill, or shipping it off to some other country, it’s all problematic. So what's the solution?
Recyclable Plastic Doesn't Cut it.
While the concept of recycling is nice, it's just not happening. According to National Geographic, on average, only 9% of plastic is recycled. So much for reduce, reuse, recycle. 🙄
And even if the plastic DOES get recycled successfully, recycling is only delaying the plastics inevitable fate of being littered or burned - both of which negatively impact the planet.
The Compostable Packaging Solution (Pros and Cons).
- Compostable packaging is made from primarily plant based materials called bioplastics, opposed to the fossil fuels that make up standard, single-use plastic. Bioplastics can break down in soil without leaving toxins behind.
- On average, when compostable packaging is industrially composted, within 12 weeks it breaks down into healthy soil. Single-use plastic takes hundreds of years to break down.
- It takes less fossil fuels to create, and leaves no toxic chemicals behind when breaking down.
- In order for compostable packaging to break down successfully within 12 weeks, it must be composted in an industrial compost facility. Not everybody has access to compost bins (another reason why sustainability and climate issues are closely linked to social justice inequalities).
- If compostable packaging is littered and finds its way into the ocean, it will still break down, but will take longer and release small amounts of greenhouse gases as it decomposes.
Compostable Packaging - Why It's Revolutionary.
While there is no perfect type of packaging, compostable packaging avoids the major problems associated with single-use plastic.
Many industries are shifting to more sustainable ways. In just the past few years, the fashion industry has taken action to use more sustainable fabrics and "fast fashion" has been looked down upon.
In the snack industry, there is so much focus and attention on what goes inside the packaging, that what it comes wrapped in is completely overlooked. But it's time for that to change.
Until consumer goods companies embrace compostable packaging, their products will continue to pollute the oceans, the air and communities around the world.
At Rooted Living, we want to be leaders in the fight against single-use plastic through our sustainable (and healthy!) snacks.