The Critical Need for Plastic-Free Packaging in the Age of Sustainability

By Leena Joshi, Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador

Plastic pollution has become an insidious epidemic that has infiltrated every corner of our planet, leaving no ecosystem untouched. While we celebrate the rise of sustainable businesses offering eco-friendly products that help us waste less, there’s a disconcerting oversight that continues to plague our environment: single-use plastic packaging. Of plastics discarded as wastes, an estimated 40 percent is packaging. It’s high time we address this issue head-on and recognize that true sustainability extends beyond the products; it also must include the packaging that houses it.

In a world that increasingly champions sustainability as the gold standard for businesses, it’s bewildering to see how many otherwise eco-conscious companies turn a blind eye to the environmental catastrophe of their single-use plastic packaging. Just as researchers have uncovered microplastics in our hearts, we can find traces of plastic pollution in the DNA of numerous brands. This not only tarnishes business reputations, but threatens human health, social justice, the environment, and wildlife.

Recent studies have exposed the pervasive issue of microplastics infiltrating our bodies. For example, researchers have collected heart tissue samples from patients during heart surgeries, in which they found tens to thousands of microplastic pieces in each sample. These minute invaders included plastics used in single-use beverage bottles (made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET) and pieces introduced during surgery, like intravenous (IV) solution bags (made of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC). 

Even more concerning, all the blood samples taken from these patients contained plastic particles, confirming that microplastics can journey into our hearts through our bloodstream. This revelation underscores the urgent need to understand the potential health effects of these microplastics on our health.

The path of plastic into our hearts begins when we inadvertently absorb, ingest, or inhale it into our bodies. As our understanding of this issue deepens, it becomes abundantly clear that plastic pollution is not just an environmental concern; it’s an immediate global threat affecting human health and the entire ecosystem.

Microplastics aren’t just silent intruders in our bodies; they bring with them a host of detrimental effects. They contain and release hormone-disrupting, immune-suppressing, and carcinogenic additives. In addition, plastic pollution contributes to climate change by releasing greenhouse gasses and hazardous chemicals like dioxins, heavy metals, and polychlorinated biphenyls throughout its life cycle. From extraction to production, use, and disposal, plastic leaves a trail of environmental destruction.

In order to end this crisis, we must address every stage of plastic’s existence, from production to use and disposal. The solution is readily available, and it starts with a fundamental shift away from unhealthy and wasteful single-use plastics towards embracing sustainable, plastic-free alternatives.

Businesses, in particular, have a pivotal role to play. Many are already producing sustainable and eco-friendly products, but they often neglect the critical aspect of packaging. It’s time for them to align their values with their actions by adopting plastic-free packaging solutions. Sustainable businesses should lead the way and set an example for their industries.

Take Action

The opportunity to drive these essential shifts is upon us, and it requires collective action. We urge not only businesses but also individuals to be advocates for change. Encourage both your local government and international leaders to take a firm stance on UN Global Plastics Treaty negotiations. It’s crucial to hold polluters accountable while supporting and empowering people to engage in sustainable solutions.

In a world grappling with the omnipresence of plastic, the call for change is growing louder every day. As individuals, we hold the power to drive this transformation. Through our daily efforts to reject single-use plastics and following the principles of reusability, refillability, repairability, and sharing, we actively work towards a vision where sustainability becomes an ingrained and integral part of our lives, rather than just a trendy slogan.

As this movement gains momentum, it propels us towards a future where the shadow of plastic pollution fades into the annals of history. It’s a future where our collective commitment to a plastic-free existence paves the way for a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable world for generations to come. We need to take action now to ensure that plastic packaging is no longer a silent menace to our planet and our health.

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Guest blog by Kareena Desai

Kareena Desai is a Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador, age 11. She recently went on a trip to Switzerland & France and wanted to share her experience and highlight the effective ways both countries are reducing their use of single-use plastic.

Hi! I’m Kareena Desai. I am the founder and CEO of Perform For Change, a non-profit organization that raises money for important environmental causes through projects and performances. I recently went on a trip to Europe. On that trip, I saw many simple things that Switzerland and Paris, France, do to reduce the use of single-use plastic that we could also do in the United States, where I live.

While I was walking around town in Lucerne, Switzerland, there were vendors selling chestnuts. The chestnuts came in compostable bags that had little pockets where you could put the shells in and compost the whole bag later.

Kareena Desai Plastic Pollution Solutions European Adventure

In a window of a clothing store, there was a sign that said, “Be aware of what you wear” with a plant symbol next to it. It was nice to see that there were messages reminding people to be environmentally friendly with their clothing.

Plastic pollution solutions European adventure Kareena Desai

One day we went to eat at a cafe called Velo Cafe. They had reusable utensils in a reused can and napkins made from 100% recycled plant material.

On a train in Switzerland, there was a sign saying, “If you don’t preheat your oven you will save 20% of energy.” There were also water faucets that dispensed water and soap at the same time, saving 90% of the water you would have used to wash your hands! These types of signs and information were everywhere to remind people to do what they can to keep the planet healthy.

Plastic Pollution Solutions European Adventure 5

In Paris, France, at the Hotel Novotel, there was no single-use plastic at all used by the hotel! In each hotel room, they had reusable shampoo bottles. They also had shower caps in compostable packages that said “let’s act together to reduce plastic.” They also had completely compostable cups, and the room keys were also made from recycled wood! 

For breakfast, there was milk in glass jugs. All the fruits were in wooden crates, and you could cut them yourself with a reusable knife. There were condiments and yogurt in little glass containers along with a butter stick on a cutting board.

When you entered the hotel, there was a glass jug with water in it and little glass cups on the sides.

One place we visited in Paris, called the Shakespeare Cafe, had cups made from recycled coffee grounds.

At a park, they had compost signs and bins to help people compost in the right places.

In conclusion, I saw some really great and simple things in Europe that could help stop the use of single-use plastic in the U.S. as well. I hope that we can start to shift to some of those ways of doing things.

Find more plastic pollution solutions here

Plastic Pollution Solutions

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