Too Drastic about Plastic
Environmental advocates have drawn a line in the dirt that can only be removed by permanent change. Documentaries on Netflix like A Plastic Ocean highlight the way single-use plastics are negatively affecting the earth. A video of a straw being taken out of a turtle's nose was published in 2015 but gained popularity in 2018 in a big way. California banned plastic straws statewide, making reusable alternatives more popular around the country as a response. Beyond the monstrosity of straws, families and individuals are choosing to live a “no-waste” lifestyle. Claims that years worth of trash can fit into a small mason jar and living a vegan lifestyle is the most environmentally friendly way to eat. While each of these declarations have validity, statistics show that there is a hint of exaggeration when it comes to the details.
As cringy as it may seem, protecting the environment has become somewhat of a trendy item. Starbucks, for example, announced in July 2018 that they will be eliminating plastic straws by the year 2020. When Starbucks published their blog post announcing the bold plan, songs of praise filled their ears by companies in the interest of saving the environment. On March 20, 2019 Starbucks proclaimed their solution to consume iced beverages is a lid that uses nine percent less plastic than the current model.
A recent calculation by Quartz found that straws count for only about 0.2% of plastic waste in the U.S. The notion that 500 million plastic straws are used by Americans every day was calculated by a nine year-old. His research came from calling manufactures and using their estimates to come up with his own statistic. While his proactiveness is admirable, that kind of claim is better coming from a professional. Luckily, it sounds like Starbucks is well aware of this statistic, given that they have pledged to double the recyclability, compostability and reusability of its cups and packaging by 2022.
Reducing the use of plastic is one thing, but eliminating it all together to create a no-waste lifestyle is another. The term ‘zero waste’ is misleading; zero waste to landfill is a more suitable way to describe what outspoken activists are doing. Large companies like Subaru boast zero waste initiatives without giving credit to the real hero: recycling. Recycling has a positive connotation to it, because it seems like the environmentally friendly thing to do. Contrary to that belief, about 91% of plastic isn’t recycled, it is sent to landfill for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons includes bottles that have not been emptied before they are sent to the recycling bin. All recyclable bottles and jugs must be emptied and rinsed while regulations for caps vary depending on the state.
Although these efforts are good in theory, the details need to be clearer over what is really going on behind the scenes.
Lindsey Hrinowich is a senior from Fishers, Indiana, majoring in public relations and minoring in marketing. Hrinowich is an account manager with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.