The oceans play a vital role in regulating the Earth’s climate and supporting the global economy. They are also home to an incredible variety of life, from microscopic plankton to the largest animals on Earth.
Plastic, on the other hand, is an incredibly versatile and useful material that has revolutionized many industries, from healthcare to transportation. However, plastic waste has become a serious environmental issue, with a significant amount ending up in the oceans.
Ocean-bound plastics are plastics that are at risk of entering the ocean if they are not collected and managed properly. These plastics can come from a variety of sources, including waste generated by coastal communities, inadequate waste management systems, and littering.
Ocean protection is critical
We absolutely have a responsibility to protect the ocean from plastics and other pollutants. Oceans are essential to life on Earth:
- Oxygen Production: The oceans produce over 50% of the world’s oxygen and are a crucial part of the Earth’s respiratory system.
- Biodiversity: The oceans support an incredible variety of life, from microscopic plankton to the largest animals on Earth. Around 80% of all life on Earth is found in the oceans.
- Food Security: Over 3 billion people depend on the oceans as their primary source of protein, and the seafood industry employs millions of people worldwide.
- Climate Regulation: The oceans help to regulate the Earth’s climate by absorbing and storing large amounts of heat and carbon dioxide, which helps to reduce the impact of global warming.
- Economic Value: The oceans are estimated to contribute over $1 trillion to the global economy each year, through activities such as shipping, fishing, and tourism.
Packaging is essential, too
Packaging materials and processes seem to play a “behind the scenes” role in our daily lives, but we wouldn’t be able to live for long without it. Shortages in materials in recent years has demonstrated how quickly we lose access to life’s essentials when we don’t have packaging.
Have you ever considered what would happen if we woke up tomorrow and plastic packaging was completely gone:
- Increased Food Waste: Without plastic packaging, food would be more vulnerable to spoilage and contamination, leading to a higher rate of food waste. This could result in shortages of certain foods and higher prices for consumers.
- Increased Energy Use: Alternative packaging materials such as glass, metal, or paper would require more energy to produce, transport and recycle than plastic. This could lead to higher carbon emissions and contribute to climate change.
- Increased Landfill Waste: Plastics are lightweight and take up less space in landfills compared to other materials. If plastic packaging were to disappear, more waste would end up in landfills, taking up more space and potentially leading to environmental and health issues.
- Increased Costs: Plastic packaging is generally cheaper to produce than other materials. If plastic packaging were to disappear, the cost of packaging materials would likely increase, leading to higher prices for consumers.
- Reduced Product Protection: Plastic packaging provides excellent protection to products during shipping and handling. Without plastic packaging, products would be more prone to damage, increasing the likelihood of returns and reducing the lifespan of products.
The bottom line: we need oceans and we need plastics
There is a myth that there’s a war between packaging and our oceans and we have to choose one or the other. This is simply not true.
It is essential to find sustainable alternatives to reduce plastic waste and protect the oceans for future generations, without compromising the essential role both play for life on Earth.
The solution lies in the classic Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. It’s also important to shop responsibly (ie. learning about the products that you purchase and the packaging materials they use). Ultimately this requires companies to make green choices too. By using recycled materials and helping customers responsibly recycle the materials, we can all work together to make our oceans cleaner.
What we’re doing (and what you can do)
The PDA community has a collective dedication to being stewards of environmental responsibility. Our members and suppliers work together to bring customers environmentally-friendly products and processes. We also continue the conversation around sustainability through education in our PDA community.
You can get involved in ocean conservation efforts by volunteering with local organizations, participating in beach cleanups, and supporting ocean conservation campaigns. By raising awareness and advocating for change, consumers can help protect the oceans and the marine life that depend on them.