Why Environmental Stress Should be on Big Companies, Not Just the Individual

The current trend in environmental problems is the concern over plastic waste. Cities across the world have been making headlines by banning the use of the harmful crude-oil product - Seattle banned the widespread use of plastic straws just this year. Ten U.S. cities have banned or put restrictions on the use of plastic grocery bags. Even the number of people individually banning or lessening their plastic use in-home is rising. Most famously, Starbucks, the nation’s leading food and drink retailer, has dedicated itself to going completely plastic-straw-free by 2020.

Climate change is also under attack. While experts have researched heavily and found the reality and damage of climate change to be extremely concerning, there is still speculation that it is not real, or that it does not pose as large a threat as scientists make it seem.

While it is still very important for individuals to have an environmentally conscious mindset, the focus should not just be on pressuring people to stop using plastic straws and bringing their own bags to the store. The majority of the responsibility should be falling on big companies. Here’s why.

 

"The Crying Indian"/Keep America Beautiful Campaign was More Than Just Insensitive

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

It was funded by leading beverage and packaging corporations. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Keep America Beautiful campaign was founded in 1953 by the American Can Co. and the Owens-Illinois Glass Co., who were later joined by the likes of Coca-Cola and the Dixie Cup Co. Their involvement in the ad was never publicized. The ad depicted an Italian-American actor, Espera de Corti, as a Native American canoeing down a river that gets more and more polluted as he goes along. He steps off the boat and walks to a freeway, where a car passes by, dumping a bag of trash out the window. The camera zooms to show a single tear from the man’s eye, and then a voice over says “People start pollution. People can stop it.” The commercial was intended to draw emotion from people and put the responsibility of plastic waste and environmental detriment on the individual, rather than placing the blame where it needs to be, which is on the corporations that create the waste. During the 1970’s when this was released, environmental movements were focused on the issues that big corporations caused. To combat this, the companies released this commercial. And it worked for over four decades. Not only did this ad portray Native Americans in stereotyped and prejudice lights, it set the future of the environment on a bad course.

 

The Starbucks Straw Ban Would Cause More Plastic Waste

While it is a seemingly well-intended move, if Starbucks rids the use of plastic straws, it would only increase the amount of plastic going out into the world. According to Christian Britschgi from Reason.com, the new nitro lids that the coffee giant has advertised as their straw replacement, weigh either 3.55 or 4.11 grams, depending again on lid size, which is slightly more than the current lids which weigh from 3.23 grams or 3.55 grams. While slight, the difference is only adding more plastic to the waste issue. It is not helping the environment. It makes Starbucks look good, but it isn’t cutting back on plastic manufacturing.

 

Companies Fund Politicians Who Will Block Plans to Help the Environment

It’s no secret that companies have been donating to politicians for generations. Like everyone, they support the candidate that fits their beliefs and agendas. This is fine… when the agenda benefits the people and the world. According to The Guardian, an analysis of 28 Standard & Poor 500 publicly traded companies by researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists “exposed a sharp disconnect in some cases between PR message and less visible activities, with companies quietly lobbying against climate policy or funding groups which work to discredit climate science.” "The thing we found most surprising in doing this research is just how all 28 companies expressed concern about climate change," said Francesca Grifo head of the UCS scientific integrity programme. "But when we took a deeper look we found that a lot of the actions they took weren't connected to the messages."

 

Guess what… Paper bags are only a little better than plastic ones

While paper bags do not pose the same threat or as big of a problem as plastic bags, there are still concerns. According to an article from Wired, research shows that the amount of energy used to produce paper bags leaves behind a higher carbon footprint than the process of making plastic bags. While paper bags won’t sit in a landfill for 500-years or endanger sea creatures right away, the effects on climate change and energy use are concerning. Try using the reusable cloth bags. 

 

Those bottles your recycling don’t always get recycled.

For a long time, much of the western world’s waste has been shipped off to China, According to an article from NPR, around 45% of the world's plastics set for recycling have been exported to China since reporting to the United Nations Comtrade Database began in 1992. But now, China has passed the National Sword policy banning this from continuing. So all those years of shipping off trash so we wouldn’t have too has backfired, and the waste is piling up. The solution? Ship it somewhere else - but that doesn't work. Countries that have been trying to pick up the slack, like Thailand and Malaysia, are not equipped or developed enough to handle this amount of waste in an amount of time or way of recycling that is beneficial to the environment. It ends up in more landfills or incinerated, which is not good for the atmosphere. Another solution? Stop companies from manufacturing so much plastic, maybe?

 

What Should be happening?

Companies should be finding ways to use sustainable energy and make eco-friendly, biodegradable products. Single use plastics should stop or lessen greatly; not just straws, but cups, wrappers, containers, bags… all of it. People should continue to lessen their plastic usage and find eco-friendly alternatives to their everyday activities, but vote for representatives who will fight for the planet, not the ones supporting their donors.  

 

HCXO,

Carlee

 

All images courtesy of Unsplash.com unless other wise stated. 

Sources

  1. The 'Crying Indian' ad that fooled the environmental movement - https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/commentary/ct-perspec-indian-crying-environment-ads-pollution-1123-20171113-story.html

  2. Top US companies shelling out to block action on climate change - https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/may/30/companies-block-action-climate-change

  3. Banning Plastic Bags Is Great for the World, Right? Not So Fast - https://www.wired.com/2016/06/banning-plastic-bags-great-world-right-not-fast/

  4. Starbucks Bans Plastic Straws, Winds Up Using More Plastic- https://reason.com/blog/2018/07/12/starbucks-straw-ban-will-see-the-company

  5. China Has Refused To Recycle The West's Plastics. What Now? - https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/06/28/623972937/china-has-refused-to-recycle-the-wests-plastics-what-now