You may not realize it, but plastic is everywhere, even in the paper products you pride yourself on choosing instead. It creeps under the lining of your paper cups or other disposable cutlery, canned foods and take-out bags. This single-use plastic-coated paper is tossed into the trash because it becomes unfit for downcycling, or worse, recycling. But that's for some other time. For now, we'll be looking at what makes plastic so enticing and the infatuation that has costed the environment.
One-Click Culture and the Mess it is Making
With the pandemic forcing us on staying in, there has been a growing consumer appetite for convenience – getting anything we want to be delivered to our front door by tomorrow in just one click. Although this boosted the e-commerce industry worldwide, frequent online purchases produced more packaging waste piling up in the landfills. Besides, online items tend to come from different distribution centers. Both factors result in higher greenhouse gas emissions per item.
It goes without saying that it is versatile for both producers and consumers- it is cheap and easily accessible. In other words, it is Sastha, (rarely) Sundar aur Tikau. But press that pause button and take a moment to realize how greener alternatives to this are taking over- as they should be.
‘‘What are eco-friendly materials used for replacing plastic?’ Is one of the most highly-searched questions on Google about packaging design.
The study also found that, on average, 70% of “purpose-driven” shoppers pay an added premium of 35% more per upfront cost for sustainable purchases, such as recycled or eco-friendly goods. Alongside this, 57% are willing to change purchasing habits to help reduce their negative environmental impacts.
Ever heard of water-activated paper tapes? Or paper bubble wraps? Congratulations on being a conscious consumer if you do! These are just some of the breakthroughs, that Indian brands like Ecoware and Packmile promise quality and design on.
Sustainable packaging keeps harmful chemicals at bay, keeping the product completely natural and safe. As it reduces the number of resources used up, it also reduces your carbon footprint. Whereas reusable packaging help companies save packaging costs by switching from single-use to multiple-use packaging solutions. So, as a responsible consumer too, one can be picky of the brands they shop from by making this a priority.
So...What's the Problem?
Now, it is no doubt that plastic packaging is the cheapest of all. But this owes to the fact that green items are expensive because we don’t want enough of them to encourage businesses to rethink their processes to be as energy-efficient as possible.
But if we continue to demand more, green companies can scale up and costs can become lower. Even then, there might be only an extent to which prices would go below, because of fair labor employment terms and the eco-friendly processes. Moreover, this is the true price of consuming our products – a price that captures environmental externalities that we chose to ignore in the first place.
-Deveshi Roy from Wobh