The Environmental Harm Caused by Plastic Packaging of Cleaning Products
When I first started on my mission to use only eco-friendly, non-toxic ingredients in my cleaning solutions, I used plastic bottles for my concoctions. After all, they were cheap, widely available everywhere, and it was what all other cleaning products were packaged in. Little did I know that despite using my “eco-friendly” ingredients, I was contributing to the mass pollution of plastic that plagues our planet today.
Plastic is an extremely convenient and versatile material. It is used to make a multitude of different products, including, but not limited to, packaging materials, dishes, bags, phones, furniture, clothes, books, electronics and more. We’re addicted to the benefits that plastic confers, and our society would undoubtedly not be what it is today had plastic never been invented.
Despite the myriad of benefits of plastic, we’ve become a society that has traded safety for convenience. We’re slowly, yet effectively, polluting our oceans with plastic to such an extent that, according to the NOAA Ocean Acidification Program, the ocean has become 30 percent more acidic in the past 200 years alone, which is a more significant change in ocean acidity than any changes that have occurred in the past 500 million years. This means that our marine life as we know it can become extinct, because sea life is extremely sensitive to changes in ocean acidity. Not to mention, fish eat the tons of plastic we throw into the oceans each year, which eventually ends up on our dinner plates with the same toxic substances we use in the manufacturing process of these plastics.
In response to this massive plastic pollution, new products, such as biodegradable plastic, have become more popular, with the belief that if it takes only 1-5 years for plastic to decompose naturally in the environment then we’ve solved the problem of regular plastic taking between 10 to 1000 years to decompose. However, marine life can’t tell the difference between non-biodegradable and biodegradable plastic. Either way, if they eat the plastic, and they eat too much of it, they will most likely die within the 1-5 years it takes for the plastic to “decompose” or they will absorb the toxins they’ve swallowed, then be eaten by another animal or human, taking those toxins up the food chain with it.
When I walk into a store and travel to the aisle with the eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products, I’m met with this:
What’s wrong with this picture, you ask? What’s wrong is that every single one of these bottles is packaged in plastic! These companies claim to be eco-friendly and use only biodegradable materials, yet they are harming our planet and marine life in more ways than one.
I’ve come across objections that glass is not anymore environmentally friendly, since it requires more energy to manufacture and can take 500 to 1 million years to decompose. Although I won’t delve into the details and pros and cons of glass vs. plastic (that explanation is outside the scope of this article, and will most likely be featured in a future blog), I can say with absolute certainty that glass is undoubtedly the more eco-friendly option. Not to mention, it is much easier to clean, reuse, and recycle.
At ViriClean, we strive to opt for plastic-free packaging and tools whenever possible, albeit with limitations. Due to the widespread use of plastic today, it’s difficult to find products and manufacturers that are 100% plastic free. However, our mission is to eventually convert to a 100% plastic free business by manufacturing our own plastic free cleaning products.