The world has a huge plastic problem. While it literally destroys our beautiful planet, we keep producing more and more of it. As consumers, few of us stop to think about the implications of our day-to-day plastic purchases. But we really should.
Besides the tremendous damage that extracting oil for plastic causes, a huge amount of our plastic ends up in the ocean. In fact, there is so much ocean plastic it created the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Ocean plastic contaminates our water, and destroys plant and animal life. What’s more, it’s not going away on it’s own. Most plastic takes hundreds of years before it biodegrades on it’s naturally. In the meantime, we just keep adding more and more to the pile.
Those of us who do try to recycling and reduce our plastic consumption can only do much. As one person, we have a very limited impact. That’s why it’s so important that industry take a leading role in this endeavour.
Here are 7 companies that are leading the charge in solving the plastic problem.
There are many reasons why SodaStream is good for the planet, but perhaps the most important is that SodaStream is playing a leading role in reducing plastic bottle waste. With a SodaStream machine, consumers can make their own soda at home in reusable bottles, rather than buying commercial soda in single-use bottles.
“Plastic bottle waste is increasing at a worrying rate for the environment. Until now, the threat of carbonated beverages has never been addressed because there was no other option. SodaStream offers a better alternative by transforming tap water into sparkling beverages at home, with a reusable bottle. By using SodaStream the average family can prevent the unnecessary manufacture of many thousands or bottles and cans, most of which would end up in the landfill.” – Daniel Birnbaum, SodaStream CEO
Only 1 in 5 plastic bottles get recycled. In the United States alone, 38 million empty plastic bottles get thrown out every year. These take 450 years to break down. Each SodaStream reusable plastic bottle can replace 2,000 single-use plastic bottles. If you want to take it a step further, SodaStream offers glass bottles, which last longer, and are easier to clean.
2. 5 Gyres
5 Gyres is an non-profit working to reduce plastic pollution. They conduct research, run events aimed at raising public awareness of the plastic problem, and work to influence relevant policy changes. In particular, 5 Gyres is known for researching the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and documenting the size of the gyres where all our ocean plastic ends up.
Currently, the world only recovers 5% of the plastic we produce. So what happens to the other 95%? About 50% of it gets buried in landfills and a small amount of it is remade into durable goods, but a lot of our plastic goes unaccounted for. This unaccounted for plastic is basically litter, and most of it ultimately washes out to sea.
It’s important to document the lifecycle of plastic and the effect it’s having on the environment. 5 Gyres has taken on this responsibility.
While SodaStream reduces consumption of plastic soda bottles, it doesn’t actually do much to reduce plastic water bottles. This is where Boxed Water is Better comes in. While it’s always better to use a reusable water bottle, sometimes we find ourselves thirsty and without one. If you need to buy water but don’t want to contribute to the plastic problem, Boxed Water is Better gives you another option.
Like SodaStream, there are many things that make this company good for the environment, but the most important is that they completely replace single-use plastic bottles with cardboard instead. Even if the cardboard doesn’t get recycled (hopefully it will be!) it takes much less time to biodegrade than plastic.
4. Plastic Bank
The Plastic Bank uses economics to help solve the plastic problem by converting plastic waste into a currency. They use this system to create a triple bottom line that not only allows them to profit, but helps people and the planet too.
Plastic can be reused. In fact, pound for pound, plastic is worth more than steel. Many of the world’s most polluted places are also home to the most disadvantaged people. The Plastic Bank encourages people in economically disadvantaged places to collect discarded plastic and sell it to them. The Plastic Bank then sells that plastic to corporations who can recycle it into new packaging.
They have proven that there’s no need to make new plastic. We have more than enough already and should be using what we already have!
5. Blue Avocado
Aside, from plastic bottles, plastic bags are another huge source of plastic waste. From produce bags at the grocery store to Ziploc bags in our lunches, there is a lot of unnecessary waste—and there’s no reason for it!
Occasionally, Ziploc bags can be replaced with containers, but containers take up a lot of space. If you put everything in it’s own container you might need a an entire backpack just to transport a simple lunch. Blue Avocado produces (re)zips reusable snack bags for transporting food and other items. They also produce (re)useable produce bags so you don’t need to waste more plastic at the grocery store either. Even better, the produce bags are made from recycle plastic bottles. Win-win!
6. PK Clean
Although you might already recycle and feel good about it, traditional recycling is a highly inefficient process. There actually isn’t much infrastructure for recycling plastic, it’s a hard thing to get rid of. Fortunately, new ways of reusing plastic are being developed every day.
Not only can discarded plastic be turned into new plastic, it can also be turned back into oil. That’s what PK Clean does. Although, we have known how to do this for years, it wasn’t until PK Clean developed a new process that makes it more sustainable and affordable did this become a viable option. With their design, they’re able to turn 20,000 pounds of plastic waste into 2,500 gallons of usable fuel that can be sold to refineries.
7. Whole Foods
Whole Foods is one of the few national grocery chains that is taking the plastic problem seriously. Whether you actively avoid plastic grocery bags or not, you won’t be able to use them at Whole Foods. In 2008, Whole Foods made the switch from plastic to paper. This is important, not only because of their scale, but also because they’re using their size and position in the market to educate consumers and pressure other grocers to follow suit.
In addition to banning plastic bags at the checkout, Whole foods is also working towards solving the plastic problem by offering biodegradable alternatives for plates, cutlery and other food takeout items.
While it may not be the most scalable solution, Litre of Light is doing something amazing with plastic bottles. They’ve figured out how to use plastic bottles to create light in villages without electricity. This genius idea is changing the lives of millions of people who no longer have to live in the dark. And it’s giving a second life to thousands of plastic bottles!