Plastic, traditionally derived from petroleum products and consuming some 270+ tons of oil and gas each year, is perhaps the most omnipresent substance in our lives. It is also ever-present throughout the environment and in the waste stream because it requires such a long time to break down. This leads to pollution issues ranging from the filling of landfills to the infamous choking of fish from plastic “6-pack” rings. The plastics industry creates sustainability problems primarily during manufacturing and disposal. The production of plastic products produces millions of pounds of pollutants each year. Many of these pollutants are persistent within the environment and can cause health problems for both humans and animals alike. In addition to the environmental and health problems associated with plastic manufacturing, social justice issues arise with plastic manufacturing plant location. Many plants are placed in lower-income areas, within which much of the pollution is concentrated, manifesting socioeconomic inequality.
There are several potential green solutions to keep in mind when shopping for plastic office products. The options available include buying recycled products, purchasing products that avoid the use of plastics through substitution, and buying products that use “green” plastics—those made from agriculturally sourced materials. These three tactics are outlined in the table below:
|Plastic Substitutes||Recycled Paper Pen||By simply eliminating plastic products, your office can decrease its environmental impact.|
|Recycled plastic products||Bookshelves and ink cartridges||Some products currently require the use of plastic in their manufacturing. Buying recycled plastic reduces landfill space and reduces the use of petrochemicals.|
|Plastic alternatives||Corn-starch garbage bags, writing instruments, cutlery||Technologies are being developed that replace plastic with agriculturally sourced materials, these decrease disposal issues and may reduce energy inputs.|
The following suggestions may be used to increase your office’s environmental performance with regards to plastic use:
- Reuse: follow the principle of Reuse closely with plastics, as many products, especially containers (including bags), can be reused easily.
- Innovation: look for ways to avoid the use of plastic, such as using wood-based products when possible.