Plastic waste is being banned across the globe, with many individual states taking action to ban the most wasteful products. Due to consumer backlash and increasing environmental concerns, many large corporations are reducing the amount of plastic waste they produce. Single use disposable products, straws and plastic bags are among the products being most frequently targeted.
Recently, 88 pounds of plastics were found in the stomach of a whale. This is not a singular issue. Plastic is now being found in most marine animals — and when it enters the digestive system of an animal, it can easily cause sickness and death. Plastics are being used in unprecedented amounts throughout the world. These plastics don’t degrade, and they need to go somewhere. Countries that have traditionally processed plastic waste, such as Malaysia, are now overwhelmed.
Bans of plastic straws and plastic bags have become common, but those aren’t the only initiatives against plastic. Some countries have banned single use plastics as a way to help the environment, while others are levying expensive taxes against plastic use. Even companies that aren’t concerned about sustainability are going to have to transition away from plastic shortly if they want to continue capturing all of their profits.
Clearly, the plastic problem presents a unique challenge for global industry. Let’s explore the impact.
Coca-Cola Creates a New Recycling Initiative
By 2030, Coca-Cola is planning to recycle an equal amount of plastic to the amount that it produces. While it may not be able to reclaim and recycle every bottle it produces, it can scrap the equivalent. Coca-Cola accounts for a tremendous amount of plastic waste, and while many governments have initiated plastic taxes and bottle recovery, it hasn’t been enough to completely reduce the amount of plastic heading towards landfills.
Plastic recycling is becoming more effective, and there are a number of companies that are currently producing wide scale plastic recycling services. While not all plastic can be recycled (and recycling does require some amount of energy), plastic recycling can reduce the amount of waste that is being spilled into the environment. This also reduces the amount of plastic waste that can enter into the ocean and impact marine animals.
Samsung Ditches the Packaging
Samsung accounted for the use of an incredible 590,000 tons of plastic in 2017—but it’s going to be drastically reducing this amount by ditching plastic packaging. Instead, all of Samsung’s packaging will eventually be made out of paper and other sustainable, biodegradable materials. While Samsung isn’t going to make this transition immediately, it’s working towards it now.
Many other companies are likely to be reducing the amount of plastic packaging that they use, as eco-friendly and sustainable options become more readily available. A major player such as Samsung switching over to biodegradable plastics will likely have benefits for the industry as a whole, normalizing non-plastic packaging and refining the processes needed to produce it.
Of course, packaging is still a problem, especially in a world where products are shipped and reshipped again to consumers. And that’s why some companies are tackling the idea of packaging at the source.
Loop: a Revolutionary New Shipping and Packaging Service
Some of the largest companies in the world — Proctor & Gamble, Unilever and Nestle — are testing out a new service called Loop. Loop will “bring back the milkman,” offering consumers reusable containers that are left out and then refilled. Reusable packaging is an incredibly important component to new environmentally-friendly initiatives, as disposable containers of any type aren’t sustainable.
Whether plastic or paper, disposable containers take energy to create and process. They also fill landfills and lead to more complex waste management processes. If Loop is able to succeed, it can cut down on a significant amount of waste. Of course, right now it’s only being rolled out to specific test communities, and whether the product proves to be successful will likely rely upon convenience and cost.
These are only some ways in which the world’s largest businesses are now responding to the growing plastics problem. There are likely going to be more ahead: not only are many governments banning disposable plastics outright, but businesses are also taking action to improve upon their green initiatives. In general, consumers are supporting these new eco-friendly initiatives, and they present an opportunity for companies to show their values and company culture.