Plastic: an industrial plague

18/08/22

Plastic is the public enemy number one of the ocean and the marine life it holds within. Yet we continue to massively produce and use it: 460 million tons of plastic were produced in 2019. This figure is only increasing as the harsh reality has shown it is more lucrative to pollute than to change harmful industrial practices.


Why plastic is still a problem

From bottles to packaging or even toys, many of our daily objects are made of plastic. And this trend is not about to decrease with a growing appetite for this raw material due to its low cost and multiple benefits.  




Hygiene products, dishes, furniture…plastic is everywhere in different forms and colors, but still has the same impacts on our environment and our health. Today there is an emergency: we must get out of this vicious plastic circle. But how can we reduce plastic when it has become such a normal habit?
At the French state level, commitments have already been made to initiate this plastic-free transition. The objective: the total disappearance of single-use plastic packaging by 2040. This is the AGEC law (Anti-waste for a circular economy) which sets targets to be reached each year to stop plastic pollution at its source. Items such as plastic dishes, straws, swizzle sticks or plastic cotton buds can no longer be sold in the European Union since July 3, 2021, and the implementation of the European Directive on single-use plastics.
However, this only concerns certain finished products and packaging, which is not enough compared to all the plastic produced, used, and distributed.


Food industry addicted to plastic

One would think that with the ban on many single-use plastics, manufacturers would develop sustainable alternatives. In fact, some of these products are still lurking in our stores. Only the name is changing, with products, such as plastic dishes, claiming to be "reusable" but not so different than the ones we had before. There is still a long way to go to change practices in the industry. 
More generally, it is often in false or partial solutions that companies invest. These include recycling or biobased plastic, which can help limit plastic pollution but are not a solution. Instead of focusing on reducing plastic production and its use at its source, which is the only viable long-term solution, companies often invest in the easiest legal solutions to implement. For example, today we are unable to recycle all plastics, especially when combined with other materials such as paper, and we produce too much plastic to process it properly. In the world only 9% plastic was indeed recycled in 2019. of Bioplastic, on the other hand, is just as dangerous as plastic, but allowed for certain products. And it is much cheaper for a company to switch from traditional plastic to bioplastic than to invest in a real sustainable alternative in their “transition”.



Moreover, companies rarely question the use of plastic within their facilities and headquarters (water bottles in meetings, plastic cups in coffee machines or water fountains, collective catering).
We can therefore see that plastic is present throughout companies, from the design of products made from raw plastic materials to the packaging of these products, through all the use of plastic objects that can be made within a company. 

A solution: deplastification

The transition to a world that reduces the use of plastic can be long and requires many adaptations. However, the solutions and alternatives already exist, but they still need to be implemented in a systemic way and on a larger scale.
Surfrider promotes deplastification! In other words, getting out of the systematic use of plastic products and replace them with more respectful and environmental friendly alternatives. To deplastify our societies, those who produce plastic must commit themselves to limit its use as much as possible, especially single-use plastic.
Deposit, reuse and bulk are three effective and accessible solutions to get out of the systematic use of plastic. These alternatives must be offered in our stores to allow the consumer to make the best possible choice. The responsibility of companies in this process is therefore essential since it should be their duty to ensure the best possible service for both the consumer and the environment. Research and development are also needed to find alternatives to the design of plastic objects.
Companies have an important role to play in the ecological transition. For this purpose, limiting the use of plastic is essential. So, why can’t companies actually become leaders in this transition ?

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