Convenience sells, convenience costs

plastic

In an earlier blog I said that subject of ethics in business had been occupying my mind, especially the failure of Carillion and the noise around the use of single use plastics. I wrote about Carillion in the earlier piece and so I am coming back to plastics.

Pollution caused by waste plastics has been a problem for many years. The Great Pacific garbage patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, was discovered as far back as 1985. It is a swirling mass of small pieces, many microscopic, of non-degradable plastic.

The subject has come back to the fore, I believe following the latest Blue Planet series which highlighted the devastating effect that the material has upon the marine ecosystem. Man is inexorably fouling up the oceans.

There has been widespread public reaction with demands for governments to do something about it. Laws need to be changed to force manufacturers to use less, if any plastic and to make those that they need to use recyclable. Firms have responded. Iceland is replacing all of its plastic food trays with biodegradable pulp based products while Coca Cola has committed to recycle a container for each one it sells by 2030.

This is all very well but is missing a major point. We can ring our hands as much as we like but all of us need to accept some of the responsibility. Manufacturers produce products to meet our demands. We buy without much thought to the environmental impact yet it is in our gift to make a difference. By buying products that have less packaging or where the packaging is recyclable or biodegradable would encourage manufacturers to be innovative with their approach.

It is well known that convenience sells and this has driven much of the development of disposable packaging. It is less well know that convenience has a cost. It may be that the price we are paying for convenience will kill the environment in which we live.

It is unethical to manufacture product that leaves someone else to clean up the mess yet it is equally unethical to turn a blind eye to the effect of what we are buying.

If we want something to be done about plastics then all of us have to play our part.

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