Why so much push-back on plastic-free?

Plastic bottles piled up in landfill.

Despite overwhelming evidence that plastic is harmful, we are still producing and consuming it in vast quantities.

We know we need to ditch plastic. If you’re reading this, you know we need to ditch plastic. It seems the whole social media world knows we need to ditch plastic.

So why haven’t we?

Here, we look at several reasons plastic packaging is still being produced and consumed despite evidence that it is harmful to us and the environment.

Convenience

A shopper carrying plastic bags of groceries.

Plastic is incredibly convenient, especially in our busy lives.

This is a big one. Part of the fight against plastic requires that consumers do their part, rather than just waiting for the producers to do theirs. Things like bringing a keep cup, packing a lunch, cooking rather than taking away, foregoing small luxuries because of their packaging … all these steps require planning, preparation, foresight. And yet the average working man or woman does not have the time—or headspace—to plan, prepare, and foresee. It is much more convenient to grab lunch from the nearby food court or pick up dinner on the way home. And so, in a way, the war on plastic is also a war on convenience (see our article here for more on this).

Cost

A dollar sign balancing on a see-saw with the earth.

Traditional plastic is still cheaper than its plant-based alternatives.

Traditional plastic is currently cheaper than its plant-based, sustainable counterparts. For your average small business owner, this difference in cost is important—it may be the difference between a profit and a loss. When faced with hard choices like this, many will choose to do what is best for their business, not the environment.

However, some businesses are turning eco-friendly practices to their advantage. A simple sign on the wall, an organics bin beside the counter—steps like these promote the business’s sustainability and attract eco-minded customers. This strategy does work better in big cities where sustainability is a ‘thing’ than in small towns where consumers are more interested in what will put food on the table, but it is a start.

More businesses buying plant-based plastics will increase demand for alternatives to traditional plastic, and will gradually drive down the price. We just have to get the demand there, and the cost factor will be reduced.

Apathy

'I DON'T CARE' written on a boy's hand.

Some people are simply apathetic towards our environment’s plight – and in this case, they will not change until the world does.

Ah, good old apathy. There are some people who, no matter how many images of turtles choking on plastic bags or how many recycling statistics you show them, they will not change their behaviour. This is not because they are ignorant—it is simply because they do not care. After all, as we have seen time and time again with our politicians, not everyone cares about the environment, just as not everyone cares about refugee rights or indigenous issues.

These people will go along, sometimes grumbling, with any new taxes or bans governments and businesses implement. The only way for these people to change their behaviour is for the world to change first, and this is what we hope to see if we can move past the first two points of this article.

 

Check out the products we sell on our store page or our parent company BioPak’s website.

Have a read about why bulk shopping is not mainstream (hint: it’s also to do with convenience) or why all airlines are not plastic-free, on our blog.

 

Article by Tallis Baker.

Planet Friendly Packaging acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we work.