What’s the deal with plastic neutrality?

Is plastic neutrality just another greenwashing trap for corporations to keep producing plastic waste without cutting their profit margins, or is it actually a real waste-reducing move that makes a real difference?

First of all, what is plastic neutrality? Not gonna lie, this concept is fairly new to me too, so let’s dive into this together. When a corporation is “plastic neutral,” this is typically defined as recovering the amount of plastic that they generated within the year out of the environment (this could be landfills or oceans/rivers etc.) by the end of it. This usually entails companies partnering with recycling or waste management facilities to earn plastic offset credits. While this may seen like a good idea in principal, there are many issues with it.

Worldwide, 400 million metric tonnes of plastic are consumed every year, and 40% of it is single-use plastics. In the UK, over 5 million tonnes are consumed each year, but only one quarter of that is recycled. The other three quarters that are not recycled enters our environment, waterways, oceans, and cause damage to vital ecosystems. In less developed countries, the majority of plastic waste will end up directly in the ocean.

The concept then, of a company making the effort to remove their footprint in plastic from the environment, and recycling it properly, really only temporarily extends the life of the plastic. Once the plastic is “removed from the environment,” it will only really be downcycled into other products that will just end up in the landfill. This doesn’t make the plastic disappear, this doesn’t drastically reduce the overall amount of plastic waste or consumption by corporations. By this logic, a company claiming to be plastic neutral can produce exclusively, new material, non-recyclable packaging for their products, and then paying a small fee at the end of the year to recycle some ocean plastic into other plastic products that will just end up back there after its next use or right in the landfill.

So why would a company go plastic neutral then?

Redesigning and creating thoughtful, recyclable, plastic free, or reusable packaging would require huge amount of money and would drastically cut into the profits of these companies if they actually tried to reduce or eliminate the plastic in their packaging. So getting a “plastic neutral” certification stamped on their product is just another way to shift blame and responsibility of plastic consumption, not making real changes toward more sustainable production.

In my opinion, this feels like just another green washing scheme, not a real sustainable business solution. It feels to me like it is designed to make consumers feel more at ease buying a company’s products, falsely thinking they are really helping reducing plastic waste. It is not solely up to consumers to reduce their plastic consumptions and waste, but corporations with huge amounts of resources and influence also need to take responsibility and step up to the plate when it comes to how they package their products.

Let me know your thoughts on plastic neutrality!

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