Sony has finally seen the light in terms of recycling single-use plastic packaging. According to news reports, the Japanese electronics giant has announced it will be phasing out plastic packaging in favor of packages made of bamboo and sugarcane. At least that’s the theory. If they follow through, expect bamboo and sugarcane packages to have their own problems.
For now, Sony will be switching to paper boxes on all products weighing less than 2.2 pounds. PC Magazine says that this accounts for roughly 40% of their consumer product line. But once the transition to paper is made, the company will allegedly begin development of its own proprietary packaging material, possibly made of bamboo and sugarcane.
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A Move to Sustainable Packaging
Of course, Sony is pitching the move as a transition away from plastic to sustainable packaging. All’s well that ends well, right? But let’s be honest. Is there any reason to believe that the same people calling for the end of plastic will be content to let manufacturers scoop up valuable agricultural space to grow the bamboo and sugarcane they need for their sustainable packages?
Think about it with an open mind. There is a core group of people – it tends to be a loud group as well – who are never happy. Even if they manage to convince the world to eliminate all plastics (and that will never happen) they will find something else to go after.
Bamboo and sugarcane are great alternatives to plastics, for now. But someone in that unhappy group will eventually find some reason to demand that manufacturers abandon those materials in favor of something else.
It’s Always Something
The thing about sustainability is that the modern version of it is impossible to achieve. It is impossible because the movers and shakers within the movement can never be placated.
I remember the tree hugger movement of the 1980s and early 90s. Back then, ground zero for environmental responsibility was saving the trees. Guess what? You save a lot of trees by finding alternatives to paper bags and cardboard boxes. We found a solution in plastic. But that’s not good enough. So now we have to go back to paper and a variety of other plant fibers.
How long before the cycle repeats itself? How long before sustainable packaging made of natural plant materials becomes public enemy number one, thanks to all the resources needed to produce the materials required to make sustainable packaging?
Not All Plastic Is Single Use
The strange thing about the anti-plastic crusade is its obsession with single-use plastics. The truth is that not all plastics are single-use. In fact, it’s a pretty safe bet that most of the plastics in your house are not single-use products.
In addition, the fact that industrial plastic waste can be recycled at a profit proves that the recycling concept itself is not a pipe dream. It can be done, as evidenced by the industrial plastic recycling performed by successful companies like Tennessee-based Seraphim Plastics.
The blame for municipal recycling failures doesn’t lie at the feet of manufacturers that use single-use plastic packaging. It’s not the fault of restaurants and grocery stores that sell food in plastic containers. The blame lies at the feet of consumers unwilling to make the changes necessary to ensure that recycling works.
Instead of making those changes, it is easier to call for the elimination of single-use plastics in hopes that bamboo and sugarcane will fill the void. It will not. Both materials will have their own problems if they ever become mainstream packaging options. You can count on it.