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The Compostable Conundrum:
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Businesses Can Lead the Way to Single Use Plastic Reduction
When we run out of something, another one shows up the next day with the push of a virtual button. That's the magic of Amazon and I love it. But like so many time savers, I can't help but feel that the price we pay for speed is not a fair bargain.
Amazon packages show up in cardboard or plastic mailers with more plastic "void fill" inside. Whole Foods orders contain fruits and vegetables packaged in thin plastic bags (what really kills me is a bunch of asparagus delivered on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic). Nature has already protected our oranges, bananas, zucchini and more for us. This is what pushes me away from Amazon and as I shift purchases, it's become apparent to me that Amazon was not saving me all that much time (for instance, it's actually pretty quick to cut up a bunch of carrots versus buying baby ones in a plastic bag).
As the world's largest online retailer, Amazon is also one of the biggest users of plastic packaging. From our own research at FiveADRIFT, we know that an incredibly diverse number of suppliers can provide plastic-free packaging, tape and water soluble adhesives (some of our favorite products can actually be planted and turn into flowers).
That's why I was delighted when I saw this NYT article by Pamela L. Geller and Christopher Parmeter. In it they pose a challenge to Amazon:
"Amazon should also put to work its in-house brain trust — the company is one of the biggest employers of Ph.D. economists in the United States — to develop more economic incentives to help consumers and corporations break free of single-use plastics. Finally, the sustainability research arm of Amazon Science could hire applied scientists to create packaging that breaks down safely on land and in the ocean."
One of my personal mottos is "There's always a way." If you want to find a way to be more profitable and lower the impact your organization has on the environment, you will find a way. Amazon is undoubtedly ideally suited to take on the massive challenge that Pamela and Christopher pose.
At FiveADRIFT, we hope they do. We work to raise awareness around plastic consumption and highlight viable alternatives. We provide the push to initiate change because while policy can be extremely effective at creating positive environmental change, a business chasing profits with the proper alignment can be unstoppable.
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