Do you hear the birds chirping? Have you noticed how clear the water is lately? The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us so much about the way we live our lives on our Planet Home. I mean, pre-COVID, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a bird other than a pigeon or a crow. In light of this, I think it’s time we question the way we go about our lives. Imagine if we started applying planet-friendly solutions to our daily lives—we could soon be living on a much cleaner and healthier Earth!

One of the best ways we can do this is by reevaluating the products we commonly use, like single-use plastic. Single-use plastic has been under the heat lately due to its contaminating nature. In recent years especially, large corporations have been responding to consumer demands to eliminate single-use plastic from their processes, thereby reducing the impact these processes have on the planet. 

So, what is single-use plastic? 

As the name suggests, single-use plastic is a type of plastic that can only be used once and then has to be discarded. These plastics are commonly used as they’re much more affordable than conventional storage items in the past, like glass and wood containers.  The reason single-use plastic is needed so much is because of the fast-paced nature of the world right now. We’re at a point where almost everything we do needs to be “to-go” or delivered and in response to this, packaging and transport had to change as well. 

blue labeled plastic bottles

For example, if you’re working a big corporate job, you probably don’t have the time to make lunch for yourself (or sit down and eat for that matter), and so you always get takeout from a local restaurant. Now, if you’re that busy, you also probably don’t have the time to carry a bunch of containers around, so you need something to hold your food that is disposable and light to carry as you do your work—and that’s exactly what single-use plastics can be used for. And so, as our lives became more fast-paced, we relied more and more on single-use plastics and it surrounds us in every aspect of our lives now. 

The impact of single-use plastics 

Single-use plastic is non-biodegradable, which means that it won’t break down into smaller pieces on its own by living organisms. Even if it does break down, it’s over a 1000 years at least. So, when you’re at the beach and you’re digging for seashells but find a piece of plastic instead, it could have been made in another century! 

person holding white plastic disposable fork and spoon

The reason this is problematic is because of the toxins that are released during this gradual process. During production, a lot of toxic chemicals are used to create single-use plastic. When these plastics are left to rot on their own, they release these toxic chemicals into the environment, contaminating the soil and water. Through the water we consume and the vegetables we eat, these toxic chemicals enter our system and affect our health, and the health of wildlife, too. 

What are corporate brands doing? 

We use almost 150 million tonnes of single-use plastic every year, a large percentage of which comes from  corporate brands. Given the many problems with single-use plastic, multiple corporations have decided to ban the use of this plastic throughout their organization. 

For example, Nestlé, the world’s biggest packaged food brand, has eliminated plastic straws from all their products and transitioned their beverage containers from plastic to paper. They have also pledged to make all their products reusable or recyclable by 2025. 

Similarly, the Walt Disney Company uses over 175 million single-use plastic straws and 75 million plastic single-use stirrers in all of their amusement parks worldwide. They have begun to stop using those and put reusable ones instead, and also started selling reusable shopping bags to Disney fans.

painting of building

Big names in the food sector have taken similar steps as well. In fact, Burger King is experimenting with waste-free and reusable packaging for all their food items.  

Innovative companies have also aided these larger corporate brands in their removal of single-use plastics by providing them with feasible alternative materials. A few examples include AirCarbon by Newlight Technologies, which is a packaging material that is completely biodegradable and made from carbon (thereby reducing the carbon levels of the atmosphere), and even Biolive, which is another form of packaging material made from olive waste. 

What can you do?

Well, you can start by supporting brands that are plastic-conscious and have made efforts to remove single-use plastics from their processes. Aside from the few examples mentioned previously, here are 22 more. 

You can also take action and demand other companies to be more conscious and try to eliminate single-use plastics from their operations, and even stop supporting their operations. If you want to learn more about which corporate brands cause the most plastic pollution, Break Free From Plastic releases a brand audit every year that identifies the world’s biggest corporate plastic polluters. 

people picking garbage near beach

You can also sign petitions and even contact companies expressing your concern. If you’d like to learn more about how to take action, the organization Greenpeace provides multiple resources for you to do so. Here is a great toolkit they’ve made for you to start your plastic-free campaign. You can also donate to organizations that are working towards combating single-use plastic pollution, like the Plastic Pollution Coalition

On a personal level, you can also make changes in your lifestyle to be single-use plastic-free! If you’d like to learn more about single-use plastic in general, the NRDC has a great informational article that tells you everything you need to know about these plastics. You can also follow the footsteps of other corporate brands that have made changes or even just make simple substitutes for the plastic in your daily life, like using cloth-based bags instead of plastic ones, buying groceries loosely rather than packaged ones and even using reusable items for your meals, like porcelain plates and metallic straws. Here’s a list we compiled at Planet Home that gives you ten ways to cut plastic from your life!

Corporate brands removing single-use plastics from all levels of their production is a huge step towards a plastic-free world. Not only does it reduce the use and manufacturing of these plastics, but also inspires the general public to follow suit. With their support and your individual contributions, we’re well on our way to a plastic-free planet!