After years of embracing the convenience of throwaway plastic, we are now finally confronting the environmental crisis that this culture has created.
Plastic is everywhere.
Not even the furthest corners of the planet, and its oceans, have escaped the plastic invasion. It has encroached on every aspect of our daily lives, and every corner of our beautiful natural world.
Plastic waste floats on the ocean’s surface, is strewn over the ocean beds and beaches, and litters our land.
Not only that, the planet’s wildlife unknowingly consumes plastic from our environment at an alarming rate, and with plastic in the food chain, we too are absorbing it.
While consumers may not be able to control what packaging businesses use, they can help to shift the focus to eco-friendly packaging by making environmentally conscious and sustainable buying decisions. If the market trend leans towards eco-friendly products and packaging, then more businesses will follow suit to meet the demand.
When you make sustainable buying decisions and opt for products that use plastic-free packaging, you also reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of plastic waste your household produces.
The plastic pollution crisis is global. To tackle it, we need everyone to take steps to recycle more and minimise the number of products packaged in plastic that they buy.
Ready to learn more about how to stop plastic pollution?
Why is plastic packaging a problem?
Plastic is used to package all sorts of products. Most that we buy in stores, or online, come wrapped or sealed in plastic of some description. Food, post and parcels, beauty products, toys, homewares; most people struggle to get through a day without buying or receiving an item that produces plastic waste. For the most part, we use plastic packaging once, very briefly, and then throw it away.
So, why is this a problem? Why are we now at war with plastic?
Plastic takes hundreds of years to biodegrade, and we are creating 380 million tons of it per year. Half of the plastic we produce is wasteful, single-use plastic that is immediately thrown away. According to National Geographic, less than 9 per cent of the plastic we throw away is recycled.
That means that the rest is left littering our earth, polluting our environment, and endangering our wildlife, oceans, and indeed our health.
Plastic packaging accounts for a whopping 40 per cent of the world’s total plastic usage, and here at Nereus London we believe that businesses have a moral responsibility to tackle the global plastic crisis and package products in a way that is eco-friendly and sustainable.
Why should we not use plastic?
According to National Geographic, since mass production began, humans have created around 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic; and most of it is still around today.
Plastic waste is causing many problems for our planet, contributing to environmental challenges including:
It Produces Greenhouse Gases
Plastic manufacturing is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses. It is made using petroleum and natural gas, and the extraction and production of these non-renewable resources is a big contributor to climate change.
It Damages Ecosystems
Plastic breaks down very slowly, over hundreds of years in fact, and never decomposes. When it does break down, it turns into microplastics that remain in our environment and damage our ecosystems.
It Poisons Our Oceans
Eight million pieces of plastic enter the ocean every day. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, at this rate there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.
It Kills Wildlife
Plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental threats to our planet’s wildlife. Both animals on land and in the sea are dying because they are swallowing microplastics or becoming trapped or tangled in waste plastic .
It’s Harming Human Health
According to a study titled Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, plastic poses a risk to human health at every stage of its lifecycle. Inhalation and ingestion of plastic in humans can occur in several different ways, including environmental exposure as plastic degrades, and from consuming animals where plastic has entered the food chain. Plastic is linked to a variety of serious health conditions including cardiovascular disease and cancer.
How is plastic pollution affecting the earth?
While a lot of plastic pollution ends up in landfills, even more ends up in our oceans. Floating plastic pollution can be found on about 40 per cent of the ocean’s surface.
In fact, the Pacific Ocean is home to ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’, the largest accumulation of plastic in the world. This swirling mass of waste is mostly made up of plastic pollution and is estimated to cover a shocking 1.6 million square kilometres.
Once plastic is in the sea, it will be broken down over time into microplastics. These never degrade, and instead make their way into our natural environment and the stomachs of birds and marine life.
Millions of animals are killed by plastic pollution every year, which is having a damaging effect on our planet’s delicate ecosystem.
It’s not just our oceans that are suffering from the human love affair with plastic though, the earth’s land is being polluted by plastic too.
The plastic that ends up in our landfills will remain there for hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of years. During this time, it is leaching toxic substances into the earth’s soil.
As the plastics in our landfills break down, they first turn into microplastics, and then nanoparticles. These tiny fragments of plastic then enter our food chain, having long-term negative effects on everything they touch.
Microplastics then enter the earth’s water sources from the soil, having potentially toxic effects on the wildlife that drink from them.
How do you reduce plastic in packaging?
Plastic production is a lucrative industry, which plans to ramp up production over the next decade, not reduce it. According to the Centre for Biological Diversity, the fossil fuel industry plans to increase plastic production by 40 per cent over the next decade.
Every time you choose to buy an eco-friendly product over one that is not, you exert consumer pressure on businesses to adopt more sustainable practices.
Businesses can reduce the amount of plastic in their packaging by investing a little more to swap plastic for eco-friendly materials.
If consumers and businesses alike begin to pay a little more for eco-friendly, sustainable packaging rather than plastic alternatives, then maybe we can prevent the world’s plastic problem from spiralling further out of control and causing more serious problems for our planet.
Here are a few ways you can reduce the amount of plastic packaging you use in your daily life.
- Support eco-friendly brands and initiatives
- Shop at eco-friendly, zero-waste refill shops
- Cook using fresh and unpackaged ingredients
- Try a milk delivery service that uses glass bottles
- Buy loose leaf tea (teabags contain plastic)
- Use a carbonated water machine
- Take your own cup when getting a takeaway hot drink
- Use reusable water bottles
- Carry a reusable straw and cutlery in your bag
Begin taking steps now to reduce your plastic footprint and help exert pressure on businesses to reduce or eliminate plastic from their packaging.
What are the alternatives to plastic packaging?
Plastic packaging became as prevalent as it is today because of its many benefits. It is cheap to produce, versatile, durable, waterproof, and lightweight, making it the ideal packaging material.
Finding a replacement isn’t always simple, but it is possible and necessary too if we want to save our environment.
Plastic is a man-made material made using non-renewable resources, so not only is plastic itself a danger to the environment but so are the resources and materials used to produce it.
Instead of plastic packaging, businesses should be looking for packaging options that are made from 100 per cent recycled or organic and sustainable materials. The finished product should itself be recyclable or biodegradable too.
As well as looking at the material itself that your packaging is made from, it’s important to also consider whether the processes used to produce the material are eco-friendly to ensure that the packaging is truly sustainable.
Some sustainable packaging options include:
Recycled cardboard or paper
- Cardboard corrugated bubble wrap
- Paper wrapping
- Cardboard boxes
- Paper bags
Made from natural and renewable sources, usually derived from plants, such as sugar cane and corn.
- Seaweed packaging
- Cornstarch packaging
- Mushroom packaging
- Cotton bags
- Jute bags
- Canvas bags
100 per cent recyclable packaging
Everything we use at Nereus London is recyclable, and even our labels are biodegradable.
Many eco-conscious businesses are now going one step further, looking for ways that their eco-friendly packaging can be reused by the consumer to add value to their product and extend the packaging’s lifespan and usefulness.
Examples of this include boxes that can be crafted into something for children to play with, paper bags that can then be turned into clothes hangers, and boxes that can be transformed into an attractive storage solution.
To help to reduce your plastic footprint, you can shop consciously, opting for products that are packaged in plastic-free, eco-friendly packaging where possible.
Want to know more about how to stop plastic pollution?
Here at Nereus London, we are a completely plastic-free company. We are passionate about operating sustainably and looking after the environment.
That’s why we have made sure that there is zero plastic in our packaging, or at any step of our manufacturing, logistics, or delivery processes.
We have also partnered with Plastic Bank to do our part in helping to tackle the plastic pollution that is already out at sea. For every bottle of hair care or skincare product that we sell, Plastic Bank will reclaim 1kg of ocean-bound plastic and properly process and recycle it.
As well as taking steps at home to reduce your plastic footprint, it’s also important to support and invest in eco-friendly businesses like ours to set an example for other businesses to follow, and in turn significantly improve the likelihood we can save the planet from plastic pollution.