Is It Time to Tackle Single-Use Plastic?
On Earth Day this year, the Force 5 team worked together to walk along the St. Joseph River near our building picking up trash along the walkway. We found all sorts of things—including face masks, a piece of a car bumper, and even a ladder. However, nothing was more prevalent than single-use plastic. From wrappers to straws to grocery store bags/tags, these items seemed to be everywhere, even on our relatively quiet river walk.
Of course, all those plastics don’t just stay in the St. Joseph River. One of the most pressing environmental crises facing our planet is the abundance of plastics in the oceans.
The problem is staggering. Nearly 380 million tons of plastic are produced each year, of which 50% is destined for a short life as single-use plastic. Estimates say that only 9% of plastic is recycled. Leaving the rest to be discarded to end up in landfills or the oceans. (Source: Plastic Oceans)
What we see in our local community is only one small part of the whole; communities everywhere are seeing the same patterns, which create these astronomic global numbers.
Put the Circularity into Plastics
Force 5 President Deb DeFreeuw just returned from Circularity 22. One of this event’s core focuses was how organizations large and small can counteract the growing plastic waste issue. Removing the single-use element is a critical tactic. When items can be reused, the environmental impact of their production is only incurred once, and they don’t get into the waste stream.
So, what does that mean on the ground? As a strategic marketing agency, Force 5 believes that it isn’t just individual responsibility. Solving the problem requires us to make changes in three spheres: personal, small business, and large corporations.
On the personal level, many habits can reduce the amount of plastic you cause to enter the waste stream. Here are just a few:
- Ask for “no straw” at restaurants
- Choose aluminum cans over plastic bottles for beverages
- Bring your own food containers when you eat out instead of asking for a box
- Use reusable grocery bags or paper bags
- Limit small item online purchases (this has many positive environmental effects)
Small businesses often have more flexibility to change practices toward circularity than larger corporations, so use that to your advantage by doing things like:
- Equipping your break room with reusable beverage containers, plates, and cutlery, reducing the need for your employees to bring plastic options from home
- Avoiding single-use pod coffee machines
- Providing every employee with a reusable water bottle when they are hired
- Reusing binders and folders rather than tossing them only to replace them with new ones
Even though change is hardest for larger corporations than any other group, there’s no question that the highest opportunity for impact resides in this sector. There are many tools they have to tackle the single-use plastic crisis, including:
- All the strategies listed for small businesses
- Reducing the amount of packaging used in your products, such as by selling in bulk
- Choosing sustainable shipping materials
- Offering to collect and reuse any components your customers may only need once
- Avoiding laminated materials
Why Businesses Can’t Afford Not to Act on Single-Use Plastic
When we combine all our efforts at every level, we can truly make a difference. While individual activities are spurred on by communication and community involvement, for businesses, there’s another incentive, too: long-term reputation.
A growing consensus is highly concerned about plastic waste, and more and more consumers are becoming leery of businesses that don’t invest in being part of the solution. According to research, 26% of Americans can name, unprompted, “a brand or product they have purchased or not purchased because of the environmental or social record of the manufacturer.”
That percentage will only increase over time. That’s true whether you are in St. Joseph County, Indiana, or New York City. As a business, you have a tremendous opportunity to:
- Prevent a negative reputation
- Take advantage of a business edge if you can prove you are making a difference
- Most importantly, do the right thing for our planet
To do all that, you need clear communication, a solid strategy, and people who can get the job done. Force 5 is here to help you build and execute these plans. See more about our commitment to sustainability or reach out to us today to learn more.