A Green and Sustainable FutureBy Enrique Marú | Tue, 08/17/2021 - 14:50
Plastic pollution was already one of the biggest threats on our planet before the coronavirus.
Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD
By the end of 2019 in Mexico, headlines in newspapers, magazines and even some newscasts announced new regulations that would be enacted in the country to improve environmental well-being and thereby reduce plastic waste pollution. These measures were applied at the beginning of 2020. Some supermarkets and local businesses stopped providing plastic bags and the consumption of these items was reduced but it was not until April of this year that everything changed.
Although we could say that the early days of the pandemic generated the largest CO2 drop in history, we cannot ignore that the use of different types of plastic also increased, particularly to address health issues, such as the use of masks.
In fact, according to data from National Geographic, in Italy (to date), more than 90 million masks can be used in one single month. The latest available census (2019) showed the estimated population in Italy was a little more than 60 million. This situation is not only alarming for countries with a greater number of inhabitants but also a red flag regarding the use of single-use plastics.
Consumption in the time of COVID-19 also went from physical to digital in a very short time, which not only helped boost e-commerce but also rescued hundreds of small businesses that were more susceptible to bankruptcy by enabling new sales channels to generate income, even with their doors closed.
Perhaps before the e-commerce boom, many of us would have thought that e-commerce would be more ecological than traditional retail but this could not be further from the truth. For one, is not necessarily true that expenses such as water, gas and electricity are significantly lower when running a business from a computer at home versus a store.
Importantly, because of the new consumption habits, in less than a year the percentage of plastic waste increased to a great extent due to the constant use of parcel services.
This does not mean these services are the only ones that are generating a greater amount of waste but, rather, that the acceleration of digital consumption forced them to quickly adapt to respond to the demands of those who now wanted their products delivered. A few factors are likely contributing to the increase in plastic waste: parcel services are not following best practices, distribution networks are not optimized and there is a lack of a culture that favors recycling packaging.
Rather than putting a stop to these services, modernization is necessary. A statement released by the UN highlights that recycling systems in many countries have collapsed due to the large amount of discarded material and predicts that at this pace nearly 70 percent of all plastic will end up in oceans and landfills, while 12 percent might end up being incinerated, affecting the most vulnerable areas of the planet.
Although the pandemic changed our way of seeing the world, we must not ignore that having a sustainable brand is essential for environmental balance.
It is important that we do not demonize e-commerce. We need to keep an eye on excessive consumption, which has been very common lately due to panic purchases around the globe. As brands, we must educate our users to take responsibility for their consumption, either by providing clear descriptions about the use of the product, lifetime, suggestion for consumption and even sharing ideas for packaging reuse.
Today in our country, we have more than 92 million users who are connected, making purchases, on social networks, connected to social networks and streaming services and carrying out different online activities. Together we can reinforce the importance of taking responsibility for their electronic consumption and demanding all brands adopt a more environmentally friendly posture.
Our role as companies is to seek a more sustainable future for the world, one that we can build with just a couple of clicks. Reduce, reuse and recycle must no longer be just recommendations but the Top 3 goals to achieve.