what do we do when plastic use is inevitable?
We are always trying to cut down on our plastics use. But, sometimes plastic is needed. GASP! While it pains us to package each garment in plastic, unfortunately, because of the rough shipping process it is necessary to protect our products and is more sustainable. Here's why...
In 2014 Patagonia did a study to try and cut out poly bags. FYI, poly bags are the industry term for the clear plastic bags your clothing comes in - sounds better than plastic, but it’s really the same thing.
In the case study Patagonia tried other methods of shipping, and here is what they found-
“Through this study, we determined that polybags are critical to ensuring that garments stay clean from the finished goods factory through the DC. If we eliminated the use of polybags, garments would be damaged, resulting in both financial and environmental costs. Energy, water and resources are used to make each product and we want them to be worn. A damaged product that is unwearable has a far greater environmental cost than manufacturing a polybag.”
how can we reduce our plastic consumption?
I don’t think there is a “right answer” here.
Patagonia's plastic solution was to fold their garments into smaller shapes, so they would need smaller plastic bags. By using smaller bags they estimated they could reduce their plastic consumption by 50%.
But, what about corn plastic and other plant based plastics? Wouldn’t it be better to use those instead because they biodegrade?
In the future maybe, but right now not so much.
When polylactic acid (PLA) first came out it sounded like the miracle cure to plastic consumptions. Plastic made from corn instead of petroleum, and it takes 65% less energy to produce!
Unfortunately, the hype hasn’t lived up to the reality.
Plant based plastics require special processing. So while it’s technically possible for them to completely biodegrade, if you just toss them in your garbage can they will end up rotting in a landfill, not continuing on the circle of life.
“PLA is said to decompose into carbon dioxide and water in a “controlled composting environment” in fewer than 90 days. What’s a controlled composting environment? Not your backyard bin, pit or tumbling barrel. It’s a large facility where compost—essentially, plant scraps being digested by microbes into fertilizer—reaches 140 degrees for ten consecutive days. So, yes, as PLA advocates say, corn plastic is “biodegradable.” But in reality, very few consumers have access to the sort of composting facilities that can make that happen.”
Personally, I wish as much publicity about the advent and launch of these types of products was also put into how to dispose of them. Most people know what “corn plastic” is, but don’t know how to compost it in a way that eliminates waste.
Warning! Recycling your PLA plastics with regular PET petroleum based plastics has the potential to wreak havoc on traditional recycling systems. Finding these facilities is no easy task, even with Google.
Reuse the plastic you have instead of consuming more new plastics
To us, the most eco-friendly solution is re-using plastics
We thought of some ways that you can reuse our shipping plastics.
- Protect your clothes from your dirty shoes while traveling
- Garbage bin liners
- Swimsuit bag
- Upgrade to a brown paper Lunch bag that protects from spills
We know we're not perfect and believe we can always do better. We want to hear your thoughts on our plastic problem! Please submit your ideas and opinions in our comments section!
While we are on the topic of reusing plastics, are plastics marketed as reusable a scam?
Let’s look at the case for reusable grocery bags; they have recently been the in-vogue sustainable accessory of choice. But, did you ever stop to think how many times you need to use that bag before it actually makes a difference? The answer might surprise you.
Biome suggests a bag needs to be used at least 104 times, before it makes an environmental difference (think about it, they are much thicker and require more resources to make than a single use bag). But, these bags are generally made poorly, and can not withstand 104 uses to and from the grocery store. How many of you have used a reusable bag more than 100 times?
For this reason, we recommend using organic cotton, hemp, or jute, shopping bags instead of the plastic ones you can buy at the grocery store.