4 Drawbacks of Plastic Packaging | Eco-Friendly Solutions
The packaging process plays an important role in supply chain management. Whether you buy something at an e-commerce website, your newly purchased goods will come in custom printed mailer boxes that protect your product and advertise the brand. It also provides an excellent unboxing experience to customers.
Plastic packaging is everywhere, from food and beverages to household items and electronics. It is the go-to material for many production companies because of its high strength, low density, high flexibility, and, more importantly, low cost. Its versatility also means that it can be designed in all shapes and sizes for different types of products. Common types of plastic packaging include bottles, bags, wraps, pouches, bubble wraps, and many more.
Drawbacks of Plastic Packaging
While plastic has many benefits that make it an ideal packaging material for many businesses, it also has significant drawbacks that are detrimental to the environment and human health. This article explores some of the disadvantages of plastic packaging and possible eco-friendly solutions to reduce the impacts of plastic pollution on the environment.
One of the reasons plastic packaging is adopted for a wide range of packaging is the durability of the material. However, this same attribute makes plastic a massive environmental threat if disposed of indiscriminately. Plastic does not biodegrade and can take hundreds of years to break down naturally. This means it will accumulate in landfills, oceans, and the natural environment. Without proper disposal, it can alter the natural habitat, harm marine life, and poison wildlife. It will also hinder the ecosystem’s ability to adapt to climate change.
Throughout the world, plastic pollution is becoming more and more prevalent. The United Nations Environmental Programme reports that the equivalent of a garbage truck of plastic is dumped into the oceans every minute. There have been numerous incidents associated with discarded plastic bags. In 2005, Bombay, India, suffered floods – which killed over 1000 people – caused by plastic bags clogging storm drains. This and many more are typical examples of the adverse effect of plastic pollution.
When plastic packaging is disposed of indiscriminately and allowed to accumulate in landfills, waterways, and oceans, it can pose a risk to human health. It breaks down into microplastics due to sunlight, wind, and water exposure. Microplastics measure less than 5 millimeters and can enter the food chain to cause health problems for both humans and wildlife. For instance, plastic pollution produces harmful chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, which leach into the soil and enter plant produce. Exposure to these chemicals has been associated with cancer, infertility, diabetes, congenital disabilities, and hormonal disruption.
Fishes may mistake plastic packaging for food or become entangled in plastic debris. Microplastics also affect marine life. This causes internal damage, inflammation, and other health complications in fish, which can impact humans if they consume them.
Another drawback that comes with using plastic packaging is resource depletion. Plastic is created from a non-renewable resource, petroleum. It takes significant energy to manufacture plastic packaging, much of which is derived from burning fossil fuels. Using plastic packaging drives the demand for petroleum and fossil fuels and subsequently contributes to the depletion of fossil fuels.
Plastic production processes also have significant greenhouse gas emissions, such as carbon dioxide and methane, contributing to climate change.
Even with all the trending efforts for sustainability, a great majority of plastic packaging ends up in landfills. A report by Greenpeace reveals that only 5 percent of plastics are recycled, with the rest ending up in dumpsites, landfills, or incinerators. Allowing them to accumulate in the environment can wreak havoc on the environment’s natural state and pose a threat to human life.
Eco-friendly Solutions: Alternative to Plastic Packaging
In conclusion, plastic packaging has several significant disadvantages that are detrimental to the environment and human health. It has become essential to adopt eco-friendly solutions such as paper, glass, biodegradable, and reusable packaging to reduce our reliance on plastic and mitigate the impacts of plastic pollution. We can also optimize the use of plastics so that they are easily recycled and repurposed for other production purposes.
By reducing our use of plastic packaging, we can create a more sustainable future for ourselves and the planet.