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Why Plastic Products are Cheap and How FiveADRIFT Addresses the Issue

All of us at FiveADRIFT recognize that plastic is a quintessential part of our world. It is present in essentially every area of our lives. Whether we are buying a new toy for our child, getting a soda bottle from a vending machine, or receiving a new online purchase, we are consuming or using plastic products on a daily basis.  Before we have barely started our day, we have probably used a plastic product; toothpaste, shampoo bottle, coffee cup, or yogurt container.

The statistics are startling. For instance, more than 500 million plastic straws are used throughout the world every single day. On an annual basis, we use one trillion single-use plastic bags (which comes out to two million every minute). The same is true of 16 billion disposable coffee cups. The list goes on and on.

So why is plastic used so much on our planet? There are a variety of reasons, but much of it comes down to one word: cost. Plastic is cheaper to produce than other materials. Much of our products are made from plastic because they lead to a direct economic return. That said, reduced operating costs come with a collective cost. That cost is the severe impact on our planet.

At FiveADRIFT, we are constantly thinking about the role that plastic plays in our world. We do our part in combating the war against plastic in our oceans by selling sustainable beach towels. These luxurious beach towels are not only comfortable, but they are made from sustainable materials. Most importantly, it’s the small, unnoticed items that often create the biggest damage.  Such as plastics shedding from microfiber towels or plastic in the packaging materials. We consider every step of our products’ lifecycle from the agricultural impact of our textiles to the materials used to deliver the towels to you.   

In the end, plastic is something that touches all of our lives. That likely won’t change anytime soon. That said, by understanding why plastic is cheap and how it imposes a cost on all of us, we can think twice about how much plastic we choose to use on a day-to-day basis. When we become conscious of plastics presence in different areas of our life, we can make decisions that reduce our dependence on this material.

The Hidden Costs of Plastic Use

When looking at the hidden costs of plastic use, it helps to look at the incentives of the actors involved. After all, incentives are the hidden forces that shape all our behavior. Whether you are the CEO of a multinational conglomerate or are simply trying to make the best choices in your personal or professional life, incentives are like our shadow—they never go away. 

Let’s start this discussion by looking at the incentives that govern companies that manufacture and sell plastic items. For one thing, these companies rely on plastic because there is high demand for it. As stated above, plastics are found in nearly all items that we encounter in our daily lives. Even as there is more awareness of the long-term damage that plastic pollution is incurring in our world, all of us will heavily rely on plastic for the foreseeable future.

But why are we fine with plastic products—even though they tend to cause all types of pollution in our world? It comes down to money. Simply put, plastic products are cheaper to produce. Plastics are made from various materials, including coal, salt, natural gas, and petroleum. Simply put, the raw materials that go into plastic are often less expensive than the materials that go into plastic alternatives  

Sometimes, the price of new plastic can even be more affordable than recycled plastic. In fact, back in 2016, making new plastic was cheaper than recycling plastic. With plummeting oil prices, manufacturing plastic was inexpensive due to the plastic price’s direct correlation with oil prices, we saw a unfortunate situation where there were clear economic incentives to create new plastic materials instead of spending money on recycled materials.

Clearly, there is an economic benefit here. According to Susan Selke, the director of the school of packaging at Michigan State University, “Plastics are cheap, lightweight, and adaptable in ways many of the alternatives are not.” You can see the dilemma that companies have here. On one hand, executives at small and large companies alike don’t want to see pollution occur throughout the world. They aren’t hoping for anarchy or chaos in our world’s oceans.

But on the other hand, these executives are running a business. If they are publicly traded, the executives running these companies are ultimately accountable to their shareholders. If relying on plastic will lower their costs of goods sold (and therefore increase their overall profitability), their economic incentives are directly tied with plastic. In a globalized world that is becoming increasingly competitive, these economic incentives can be too difficult to ignore. The collective consumer power is more impactful than we realize.  These executives are responding to our demand.  If we change the demand they are forced to change their practices.  

Ultimately, however, the cheap cost of plastic isn’t free. There are externalities that come from cheap plastic in so many of our products and services. As you can guess, those externalities come in the form of plastic pollution. You are likely familiar with some of the statistics and observations. Plastic is blamed for the death of thousands of seabirds and marine animals per year. Every year, approximately eight million tons of plastic waste travel from coastal nations into our oceans.

That said, there is one more statistic that is particularly jaw-dropping. That is the fact that almost every piece of plastic that has ever been made still exists on our planet. As we are producing approximately 300 million tons of plastic, we can’t just wish away this plastic. In all likelihood, it is here to stay.

Helping Address Plastic Pollution

The overarching problem of plastic pollution isn’t going away anytime soon. Yet the fact that we rely on plastic and have to address the long-term problem of plastic pollution doesn’t mean that we can act right now to make the problem less daunting. 

To make some traction in addressing the problem, we need to address some of those incentives head-on. We do this by using sustainable materials to produce products in lieu of plastic. Even though sustainable materials may be more expensive than plastic on the surface, the benefits that come from sustainable materials are compelling. These benefits include everything from stronger brand equity to a better user experience.

Through using sustainable materials, we are also shifting costs. If, for instance, we create a sustainably produced product that lasts for 10 to 20 years, the cost of little to no environmental impact is included in the cost of making that specific product. The consumer ends up bearing the cost instead of the planet. While there may be short-term costs that are borne by customers, the long-term benefits clearly outweigh those costs.

At FiveADRIFT, we are proud to have created sustainable beach towels that provide value to both our customers and our planet as a whole. Our luxurious beach towels are entirely plastic-free. They are lightweight, super absorbent, and fast drying. Using these luxurious beach towels, you can be confident that you are getting some of the best (and most sustainable) towels on the market today.

That’s not all. By joining the FiveADRIFT family, you get to make a tangible difference in the fight against plastic pollution. Specifically, all profits from the sale of these sustainable beach towels go toward helping remove plastic from our oceans. Every purchase that our customers make gets us one step closer to preserving some of our planet’s most precious natural resources.

FiveADRIFT is just one organization that is tackling this problem. That said, it doesn't mean that customers like you can’t help. We encourage you to check out our sustainable beach towels by visiting our website. If you have any questions about these luxurious beach towels (or our mission in general), don’t hesitate to contact us.

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