A BRIGHT BUSINESS PANORAMA AHEAD

A BRIGHT BUSINESS PANORAMA AHEAD

May 29, 2019

By Qazi Mustabeen Noor

When chemists in England first discovered polyethylene by accident, little did they know that they would discover something harmful for the planet. Even in the late 1970’s when single use plastic bags and packaging materials became prominent in the US, it was mainly lauded for its easy availability and cheap price compared to paper bags. Shopping bags became a quintessential part of daily life to such an extent that most people would never give them a second thought. However, that soon changed when some countries and some states in the US began to put bans on single use plastics. As Bangladeshis, we can be proud to say that ours was the first country to ban thinner plastic bags. The unprecedented move generated a lot of worldwide attention. However, in spite of initiatives from many governments, our oceans continue to be polluted by plastic, and our landfills continue to fill up with heaps of plastic bags and will not decompose in a foreseeable future.

 

WHY COMPANIES ARE RECYCLING

In a world where awareness about environmental issues is increasing, consumer behavior around the world too is becoming more responsible. Today’s consumers are willing to go the extra mile to pay extra for consumer brands who recycle and promote a greener approach. Moreover, to attract customers, brands are constantly competing with each other to bring about new, innovative ideas. The stronger the statement, the greater the response, and in a word, consumers are voting with their wallets in favor of companies that go green. To survive and create a statement in the present market, global brands are moving forward with innovative ways to recycle plastic.

 

RECYCLING UNDER THE SEA

A staggering 90% of the articles found on the ocean floors around the world are plastics. This influx of plastic waste being dumped in our oceans is causing serious environmental imbalance, endangering marine life and destroying the ocean ecosystem. To counter a part of this problem and recycle wastes found under the sea, sportswear brand Adidas is set to make 11 million shoes out of recycled ocean plastic. Adidas Parley, an official collaboration product line between Adidas and Parley for the Oceans is the revolutionary move to reclaim our oceans, and marketing footwear at the same time. Parley for the Oceans is an environmental organization that addresses environmental threats towards the oceans. According to Cyrill Gutsch, an activist and a designer, creativity can bring about change faster than sheer awareness. On Earth Day this year, the designer launched a partnership with the sportswear giant. As a continuation of that, Adidas made sure that Major League Soccer team wears jerseys that are constructed with upcycled ocean plastic materials. They have also created running shoes from these materials. Indeed, a creative product campaign has more impact on the consumers than an awareness program. Realizing this, Adidas combined both action and awareness in its unique shoes. 

 

PLASTIC-FREE SKIES

The steps undertaken by many airlines around the world are the proofs that not just the oceans, the skies can be kept plastic-free too. The world’s first ever flight to completely go plastic free is that of Portuguese charter airline Hi Fly. They have replaced plastic containers, spoons and forks with compostable alternatives such as bamboo and recycled materials. However, airline giant Etihad Airways went plastic free more recently. They have recently revealed that they use around 27 million single-use plastic coffee cup lids per year. Subsequently, they took the initiative to become the first major airline to completely ban single use plastics on board. Their coffee cups are now made of edible wafer, and they have been putting blankets that are made of recycled plastic bottles. These steps have the potential of creating more impact than a mere publicity stunt. The consumer market, growing increasingly ethical, is going to opt for products and services that are environmentally sustainable.

 

OTHER MENTIONABLE INITIATIVES TO GO THE EXTRA MILE

Several other companies are coming up with their own innovative ways to go greener. Tech giant Intel has recycled more than 75% of their waste generated from their operations since 2008. By 2020 they target to hit 90%. They are currently working on the construction of a water recycling plant in Oregon in an attempt to reduce the water needed to manufacture their computer chips.

Estee Lauder, a world leader in makeup and fragrances, is taking multiple initiatives to make their product packaging greener and more sustainable. They are collaborating with other high-end beauty companies to offer concealer, lip pencil and perfume refills to order. Companies like MAC and Lush allow consumers to claim a product for a certain number of empty containers they return. Global soft drink maker Coca-Cola has also pledged to recycle 100% of its bottles by the year 2030.

While more and more companies are taking innovative steps to protect the environment, it is high time they evolved to make their initiatives something beyond just simple CSR activities. Reducing single use plastics in products and replacing plastic products with biodegradable ones are only the first few steps to have the best of both worlds. As easy it is to produce single use plastics, it is becoming even easier to recycle, upcycle and construct entirely new products out of them. Of course, the power of marketing remains there to aid these companies win an environmentally conscious market.  However, they should also find ways to incorporate their innovations into products for the mass-market, so that not-so-woke consumers can also be a part of the environment agenda without breaking the bank.

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