Big Business is Exploiting the Sustainable Movement

Last semester, right before winter break, I went to Meijer to get a bamboo toothbrush for a secret Santa gift and it came in plastic packaging…

This made absolutely zero sense to me because the whole point of a bamboo toothbrush is to cut down on plastic waste. The packaging had a description on the back all about saving the planet and keeping plastic out of our oceans.

I could have choked on the irony.

As awareness about the environment grows, some people are committing themselves to zero-waste lifestyles. They avoid disposable products and find a use for anything that can’t be recycled. 

Replacements zero-wasters have found for disposable products include bamboo toothbrushes, safety razors, reusable straws, reusable tote bags, etc. While there are still issues with some of these products, they do limit single-use plastics.

As people share their zero-waste journeys on social media, big companies have picked up on the trend. In response, they have marketed their products as good for the planet when in reality they are packaged and often made with bioplastics - a type of renewable plastic that can be more easily recycled. What companies don’t put on the label is that bioplastics can only be recycled a few times before they become waste.

Corporation’s clever marketing and manipulation to make consumers believe they’re helping the planet is called greenwashing. They promote the importance of recycling because it allows them to continue using plastic instead of finding a less damaging material. 

Giants like Coca-cola and Nestle claim they do their part by recycling. They push the blame onto consumers who have no choice but to buy plastic because most people lack access to anything else.

As consumers become more conscious of environmental issues, companies work hard to make them think they are being responsible and eco-friendly.

According to the EPA, 8.4% of the world’s plastic is recycled every year. The rest ends up in landfills, oceans or incinerated. 

While part of the responsibility is on consumer’s willingness to change their habits, the blame for the plastic crisis goes to the companies that force it to continue. 

Through lobbying against laws and suing cities that ban single-use plastics, they have made sure that plastic will be sticking around for a long time.

As consumers, we can make the decision to cut down on plastic use by supporting local green businesses, reusing where we can and accepting the inconvenience of ordering zero-waste products from sites like Etsy or Package Free.

Making the changes we can make is the first step in a long road to a better planet.