Businesses must switch to sustainable packaging

Gabby Sanchez

When it comes to being environmentally friendly, everyone knows those three overused words: reduce, reuse and recycle. This method of environmentalism tends to focus on the individual. It doesn’t acknowledge who hands all this plastic and waste onto us — businesses and large companies.

An individual could do everything right and still not make a dent in the amount of waste companies produce and sell to us on a daily basis. The city of Austin and the surrounding metro area offer recycling services to homes that would like to, but it’s not a requirement. If one household decides to recycle, but it’s the only one on the block that does so, this effort lacks the momentum to bring any change considering the 258 million tons of waste produced every year.

One obstacle that prevents individuals from recycling across the nation is a lack of facilities that handle recycling waste. In 2014, about 34 percent of the total waste produced was recycled, and only 13 percent of what was recycled was plastic products. These facilities often cost local governments a lot of money and would be less crucial in solving our waste problems if consumers received less plastic to recycle.

While expecting businesses to simply change their production because it’s better for the planet seems unlikely, tax breaks to businesses that do and increased taxes for those who don’t could be enough of an incentive.

Companies and larger businesses are not the only ones who are responsible for reducing plastic and unnecessary packaging; local business must be as well. Policies, such as the prohibition of the use of plastic bags in grocery stores, are the kinds of ordinances that could reduce waste. Wrapping goods in plastic boxes that will be used for five minutes then thrown away is unsustainable and every business should do their part in alleviating the widespread problem.

Consumers and the government should put more pressure on producers to use less packaging, and to use packaging that’s made from recycled or compostable materials whenever possible. If consumers had no other choice but to buy products with less plastic, then less waste would enter our earth’s landfills overall.

Placing pressure on businesses to reduce and recycle does not lessen our responsibility. In order for businesses to use recycled packaging, Americans must actually recycle. On campus, it’s easy to check what products are recyclable and dispose of them correctly. At a university of 50,000 people, making an effort to recycle everything possible keeps a lot of waste out of landfills. We have a lot of the tools needed to recycle responsibly. Now it’s time to focus on reducing our waste as well.
Sanchez is a journalism freshman from Austin.

Sanchez is a journalism freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @narwhalieee.