The cost to remove all of the disposable garbage from the world’s oceans, would exceed the monetary reserves of any country on the planet!
In the modern economy, environmentally conscious manufacturers and consumers consider price to include not only the purchase price, but also the disposal cost. Fifty years ago both consumers and manufacturers were ecstatic about what seemed like a huge step forward in manufacturing, and particularly, in packaging. At this time, plastics were gaining a reputation as a “miracle fix” for any business looking to reduce costs.
This trend continued for decades and, for businesses reaping the cost benefits associated with plastics, the money came pouring in. It all made perfect sense at the time. Offering convenience to consumers was of paramount importance, as was saving on expenses.
Today, in the 21st century, we are paying the price for the plastic “miracle fix”. Plastic garbage is everywhere. In North America, the waste disposal system is efficient enough to shelter us from this disaster. However, developing countries are less prepared to deal with the excessive volume of modern plastic waste, resulting in heaps of waste everywhere. It has become our environmental responsibility to alter our mindset and no longer regard plastic as ‘cheap’ because of the high cost of throwing it away.
The ocean currently holds over 5.25 trillion pieces of trash according to a 2015 National Geographic article.
Can you put a price on removing over 5 trillion pieces of plastic trash from the ocean? The answer is no, because it cannot be done with our current resources. We do not have the resources to allocate an adequate amount of time, energy, equipment or manpower to removing this waste.
Fortunately, many people and businesses out there that are adopting a new ideology: Disposables are among the most expensive items on the planet.
Recently, we have seen some creative alternatives to disposables. Social media exploded with excitement after KFC announced that for its 50th anniversary, it was rolling out an edible Scoff-ee Cup to be introduced to selected outlets across the UK. The Scoff-ee Cup is a cup made from a wafer coated in sugar paper and lined with heat-resistant white chocolate that can be eaten as the coffee is consumed. The white chocolate slowly melts, releasing extra sweetness to your drink.
Additionally, Ecovative Design has come up with a great solution for disposables. For decades there has been a major issue with Styrofoam ocean buoys used in ocean farming operations. These buoys suffer quite a bit of wear and tear and regularly become lost or destroyed. This was not regarded as any big deal in the past because the buoys were so ‘cheap’ to replace. As a result, Styrofoam currently makes up 30% of the ocean’s trash in physical volume, and Styrofoam waste is finally being taken seriously. Ecovative Design has found a way to grow a synthetic Styrofoam cultivated from agricultural waste and mycelium (mushroom tissue). Over 3 days, these materials grow together to form a Styrofoam like material that is both cost effective, and floats in water. Synthetic Styrofoam has additional environmental benefits. When it breaks down, it does not become pollution, but rather a natural part of the ocean and a food source for marine creatures.
We applaud both KFC and Ecovative for executing these innovative ideas to help save our planet. We challenge other businesses to adopt the ideology that disposables are not ‘cheap’. If everybody continues thinking that words like ‘inexpensive’ and ‘cheap’ apply only to the monetary cost of a product, we are doomed. Forward thinkers such as KFC and Ecovative, and consumers who use their purchasing power and voices to make green decisions, are the only salvation from this planet being completely consumed by disposable plastic!