The Social Observer

The Social Media Marketing Blog by SNHU Students

Small Business, Big Impacts: Reducing Plastic Pollution in Shipments

By Em Miville

Plastic waste and its impact on the environment

Every year the world produces about 400 million metric tons of plastic waste. Of those 400 million tons, about 10 million tons end up in our oceans. This plastic impacts wildlife across the globe and damages ecosystems. In 2019, there was an average of 33 percent of fish in the ocean found to have plastic in their digestive systems. Several hundred of those species are commercially fished for human consumption.

Though the larger pieces of plastic are removed with the fish’s organs, much of the plastic it’s consumed is broken down into microplastic, which are pieces that can be smaller than a grain of sand. On average, fish consuming humans eat the microplastic equivalent of one Lego brick every week. That adds up to about one Elsa’s Castle Courtyard Lego set per year.

However, not only humans that eat fish, eat plastic. Due to the complexity of the global food chain, levels of microplastics can be found in almost all food, and even in the air we breathe.

The choices we make ultimately add or reduce the amount of plastic used every year. Even though it may seem marginal, it eventually adds up. If you’re a small business owner that ships products, it’s likely that you’re using plastic tapes, packaging, or other plastic products, like packing peanuts.

Why is it good for businesses to reduce plastic waste?

The short answer, aside from the ecological benefits, is that consumers like socially responsible companies. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is taking the business world by storm. Through programs to reduce waste through sustainable practices, companies big and small have earned the trust and loyalty of consumers. Companies like Patagonia have been marketing their CSR for years. It’s worked to build their business and sustain them through tumultuous market trends, as well as make them one of the first names that comes to mind for socially responsible companies.

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Consumers purchase products mainly for one reason, to gain a product that is needed (or wanted). When several options are available, what makes the consumer purchase one product over another? Sometimes it’s color, size, or price, but companies that promote their CSR see a definite increase in sales over other companies offering similar products or services. Customers are becoming more aware of how their purchases ultimately impact the world around them. This leads them to actively support companies that are practicing morally responsible habits.

Simple Alternatives to Typical Packaging

“Okay, CSR is a good thing and I want to do my part. How can I reduce my plastic consumption while still getting my customers their purchase?”

Luckily for you, there are many ways to go plastic-free, or at least reduce your plastic consumption as a company.

Recycled (and recyclable) materials, as well as biodegradable packing materials have become increasingly easier and cheaper to get. They’re safer for consumers, the planet, and are often just as safe for your company’s expense reports. Consider these sustainable options, for example:

Replacing plastic bubble wrap and foam with recycled paper is one of the easiest switches a company can make. Paper is one of the cheapest packing materials available. It can provide a lot of protection for your items with little cost to the company. Paper can be crumpled, folded, or twisted to take up significant space, but also protective of the shipped items. Ultimately, paper is easy to recycle, and even if it ends up in a landfill, is quickly broken down.

Tape, possibly one of the most important pieces of shipping equipment can also be plastic free! Due to its thin and flexible properties, tape is easily broken down into microplastic particles, or can be eaten by wildlife. Since tape is mostly used on cardboard boxes, it’s likely that any box that’s thrown out will break down over time, leaving only it’s plastic tape counterpart behind. Even boxes that are recycled are typically separated from the plastic tape as it’s reduced to pulp during the process. Depending on the cardboard recycler, the tape is often thrown away and ends up in landfills anyways.

Paper-based packing tape, often referred to as kraft tape (not to be confused with Kraft mac and cheese) is recyclable, including the adhesive. This ensures that any box that is recycled with this tape is fully recyclable, with no residual plastic left behind. Additionally, if your consumer doesn’t recycle the package, you can feel better knowing that it will break down similarly to cardboard, reducing space in landfills and preventing the destruction of habitats where plastic pollution is prominent. The kraft tape adhesive is super strong, durable, and won’t easily break during shipment. This means that you’ll need less of it for each package, prolonging the use of the roll, and reducing costs over time to your company.

In Conclusion: It’s easy being green!

Ultimately, plastic consumption can be avoided and reduced with only a few changes to regular practices by companies. Even making one single change to your shipping practices can greatly impact the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean. Additionally, consider supporting other small businesses when purchasing your shipping products, and consider supporting businesses that also use sustainable practices. Make just one change today and take a step towards ultimate CSR, and follow The Social Observer for more information on small business practices that can make your business successful!

Category: Advanced Tactics, Blogging

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