Plastic is everywhere! If we dare you to keep your daily routine without using any plastics, you will probably run into issues.
Plastic was a great invention, indeed. It made many items available to a wide population, it even helped economies to grow. But over the years, we went overboard, and now we are literally drowning in plastic. It is scary to think that most of the plastic ever produced is still somewhere on the earth. Only around 9% of plastic gets recycled (1), some of it gets incinerated.
Most of the plastic produced is destined for packaging (40%). And most of the packaging is single-use. It will all be going to landfill soon after the production. The consequences of plastic pollution are starting to show everywhere. Chemicals are leaking into our water, microplastics are getting into our food chain. We even created a plastic island in the ocean: the Great Pacific garbage patch!
So, why do we use it so much? The answer is simple: it’s cheap, easy to produce, and it is lightweight. But there is a better alternative! It has been around for much longer than plastic, it has most of the same qualities, and most importantly, it is made from renewable resources. What is it? Paper!
Before everything was packaged in plastic, the paper and cardboard were a go-to resource for all packaging needs. And we should promote its comeback!
As we all know, the paper is made from trees. Trees are a renewable and sustainable resource, unlike fossil fuels. Using renewable resources means we are not using our finite reserves of fossil fuels. Because of the rising consumption of fossil fuels, it is increasingly harder to find new sources, and it is becoming more expensive to extract it. Some forecasts warn us that we could run out of oil around 2052, gas 2060, and coal 2090.
If we manage our renewable resources well, there are no increasing costs of extraction or danger of running out. We should steer towards renewable resources as soon as possible and as much as possible.
Paper is the most recycled material globally, with recycling rates between 60-70% in the US and Europe (2). Therefore, we use old paper to make new paper, without using so much virgin material in the production. And recycled paper uses 70% less energy than producing new paper.
With the above-mentioned recycling rates, only a fraction of it ends up in the landfills. Most of the paper stays in the production loop, approaching the circular economy model.
Another benefit of using paper for packaging is that apart from recycling, paper can be composted. We can compost it in a home compost or in the industrial composting sites. It will be converted into a nutrient-rich fertilizer that will be used to improve the quality of the soil. It will end up back in nature, without harmful residues.
And if paper ends up in our rivers, oceans, or anywhere in nature, it will biodegrade naturally within a short period. No damage is done to the environment, unlike plastic.
As consumers, we have the power to influence the decisions the companies make. Every dollar we spend is a vote we cast. Let’s use it not only to vote for better products but also to vote for better packaging!