Environmentally, we are staring at difficult times ahead. The air we breathe is slowly turning poisonous. Plastics and harmful industrial wastes have trickled their way onto our water-bodies and are adversely affecting our ecosystems.
You look around and their is plastic waste everywhere.
Plastic wastes are damaging eco-systems around the world and are driving many ecologically sensitive organisms to the brink of extinction.
In this backdrop, the only way forward for us is through adopting sustainable business practices.
Businesses must adopt sustainable practices and those that don’t must be made to pay the price for it.
Let us take the case of companies that sell their products in plastic packaging. People discard such packaging after use without giving much thought to where the plastic waste would eventually end up.
From water bottles to food wrap and grocery bags, millions of tons of plastic wastes are ending up in natural habitats including our oceans and seas.
According to unenvironment.org:
“Plastic waste — whether in a river, an ocean, or on land — can persist in the environment for centuries.
The same properties that make plastics so useful — their durability and resistance to degradation — also make them nearly impossible for nature to completely break down.
Most plastic items never fully disappear; they just get smaller and smaller. Many of these tiny plastic particles are swallowed by farm animals or fish who mistake them for food, and thus can find their way onto our dinner plates. They’ve also been found in a majority of the world’s tap water.”
Recently countries like India and China have committed to limit the use of single-use use plastics.
This might be a positive first step but a lot more needs to be done in our fight against the perils of plastic pollution.
The very fact that plastics are durable and handy and have so many uses that replacing them completely seems to be, at present, almost impracticable.
Plastics wastes, single use or otherwise, would continue to pollute our environment unless they are picked up and recycled.
Recycling – it seems is the only practical solution to the problem of plastic pollution.
There are however, difficulties involved.
Plastics come in different grades, and the entire process of collecting plastic wastes, sorting, cleaning and eventually recycling, often far exceeds the cost of producing virgin plastic.
While there may be varying estimates on this, it is generally agreed that globally less than 10% of the plastic produced – end up being recycled.
In this scenario, one way forward could be to bring in regulations that force companies already using plastic packaging, to adopt recycled plastics as part of their packaging processes.
Companies must be required to source, at least a part of their plastic packing materials from recycled sources. To what extent recycled materials are required to be used could be determined based on the type of industry in which the company operates.
How the company proposes to meet this increased cost of compliance – whether to absorb or pass on to the customers – should be best left upon the company.
Some might argue such a step might cause companies to shift to alternate packing materials that might have other adverse impact on the environment.
For example, a large scale shift to paper as a packing material would have a severe environmental impact as this might require the felling of a large number of trees to meet the increased demand for paper products.
The answer here again could lie in regulations that mandate the use of paper sourced from recycled sources or through sustainable forestry practices.
A point that needs to be discussed here is the impact that any regulations mandating the use of recycled plastics, if implemented, might have on the livelihood of people who work in the plastic industries.
The increased use of recycled plastics would lead to a transformation of job within the industry. It would probably open up more livelihood opportunities as more plastic wastes would need to be collected, sorted and cleaned before the recycling process can even begin.
A shift away from plastics would surely have an impact on the livelihood of people who work in the plastic industry. However any large scale shift is least likely to occur because of the convenience and cost advantage (even after factoring in the increased cost of using recycled plastics) that plastics offer over the next most viable alternative.