Plastic pollution is a huge environmental concern, and many people are pointing the finger at plastic packaging. Plastic is a notoriously common component in product packaging. In some extravagant cases, the packaging might be wrapped in what appears to be many unnecessary layers of plastic film.
Some types of plastic packaging can be recycled. However, a lot of the plastic waste that doesn’t get recycled ends up polluting our beautiful planet. For this reason, businesses are strongly encouraged to use eco packaging options as a greener alternative to standard plastic packaging. Many have been slow to improve their packaging methods, but more organizations are finally realizing the environmental impact of plastic packaging.
While it’s true that plastic packaging can have a negative impact on our environment, it also comes with undeniable advantages. In our assessment, we want to be as fair as possible while providing information from both sides of the argument. Let’s explore the environmental impact of plastic packaging and determine what can be done to improve the situation.
1. Single-use plastic can stay in landfills forever.
Most plastics can’t be recycled. Even some of the plastic waste that could be recycled often ends up in the trash, simply out of costs, convenience, or downright laziness. As you can well imagine, plastic packaging doesn’t simply disappear after you put it in a garbage can.
The plastic packaging that ends up in a landfill will decompose eventually, but the process can take hundreds of years. As it slowly decomposes, plastic releases toxins that will end up in groundwater sources that many of us rely on to get drinking water.
2. Plastic pollution harms the ocean.
Plastic packaging that doesn’t get disposed of properly can end up in the ocean, where it will join other waste materials. Plastic pollution harms the ocean and many of the marine species that call it their home. For this reason, it’s always important to recycle plastic properly to prevent it from ending up in the ocean.
Plankton and fish are poisoned by toxins released by plastic, and larger animals that eat plankton and fish can get poisoned as well. This also means that the fish we eat can be contaminated by toxins. If you enjoy eating fish, you have probably been ingesting some plastic toxins without realizing it.
3. Plastic pollution can be dangerous for land animals.
Of course, some of the plastic waste that escapes landfills stays on the land instead of ending up in the ocean. However, it can get tangled up in trees or become stuck in the habitat of birds and other animals that will try to eat it. Unfortunately, many species of animals are ingesting plastic debris, causing irreversible physical harm.
When plastic packaging doesn’t get reused or recycled properly, it will spread across the environment. Many animal species, both in water and on land, will take the largest brunt of our plastic pollution.
4. Plastic packaging might help reduce food waste.
Plastic waste can harm the environment if it’s not being recycled properly. However, plastic packaging is not entirely bad. Single-use plastic packaging helps reduce food waste, which is an advantage that can’t be ignored. It helps keep the food we buy hygienic and free of germs, but it also helps it stay fresh longer.
Without plastic packaging, some types of foods would spoil very quickly. In fact, some products would even decay before reaching the grocery store. Fortunately, green alternatives to plastic packaging do exist, combining eco-friendliness and the benefits of plastic into one powerful composition.
5. Plastic packaging is strong and lightweight.
Plastic packaging is known for being convenient and lightweight. Products protected by plastic packaging are less heavy than if they were packaged in glass, metal, or aluminium instead. Fewer vehicles and less fuel are required to transport products packaged in plastic, as well as the packaging itself. When it comes to saving energy during transportation, plastic packaging often comes out victorious.
Verdict: What is the environmental impact of plastic packaging?
Overall, plastic packaging has a significantly negative environmental impact, despite some unique benefits. Even though plastic recycling operations are slowly improving, it’s a good idea to reduce our use of single-use plastic as much as possible. Disposable straws and plastic bags, for example, can easily be replaced with reusable straws and shopping bags.
If you manufacture products and would like to reduce the amount of plastic packaging you use, you could turn to green alternatives such as compostable packaging, or flexible plastic packaging that is fully recyclable and sustainable.