No matter how helpful recycling is to the planet, it just isn’t enough. The CEO of Grove Collaborative Stu Landesberg explained in a video to Yahoo Finance that recycling is insufficient in addressing the world’s plastic crisis.
Plastic is now as ubiquitous as air. It is found everywhere in our environment, from the food packaging used, clothing, hygiene products, and cars. Unfortunately, from the volume of plastic waste generated, only 9% end up being recycled in the US in 2015. The remainder of plastic waste ends up in landfills or just within the surrounding environment.
Therefore, recycling simply just isn’t enough to heave ourselves of plastic pollution.
Recycling a limited solution
Sustainable product company Grove Collaborative believes that recycling is an inadequate solution because of two main reasons. First, not more than 10% of plastic waste gets recycled due to limitations on infrastructure. Second, plastic is, by its nature, not “infinitely recyclable,” according to Landesberg.
Grove Collaborative, a company that sells all-natural products from home accessories to cleaning supplies, is one of a few companies that have zeroed in on becoming a completely plastic-free enterprise by 2025. Landesberg explained that this commitment comes from the fact that home and personal care items worth over $1 trillion come in single-use plastic packaging.
Unlike infinitely recyclable materials like paper or aluminum, plastic can be recycled twice or thrice maximum, added Landesberg. The result is that plastic products end up likely downcycled – or recycled into lower-quality products or items. Eventually, people need to throw it away.
So what does the company envision to be a way out of this plastic crisis?
Focus on “reduce”
To become 100% plastic-free, Grove Collaborative says it will emphasize the “reduce” aspect of the “reduce-reuse-recycle” recycling triangle. In particular, the company intends to improve how it designs the packaging design of its products.
Landesberg explained that they are currently looking for innovations and technologies aimed at shrinking the size of the product. In this manner, they can “shrink the overall footprint” and eventually reduce the need to produce packaging.
The end goal is, as Landesberg says, to find a solution to the intensifying environmental crisis generated by plastic waste proliferation.
Companies have a responsibility to end plastic crisis
Grove Collaborate acknowledges that each company in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry has a responsibility to end the plastic crisis.
Being “one of the leading producers of plastic waste,” Landesberg believes companies have the obligation and potential to resolve this lingering problem. To do this, Grove needs to link up with like-minded firms so that this can be achieved.
Companies opt to produce plastic than recycle it due to cost limitations. However, what companies fail to factor in are the externalities of making new plastic – including the huge negative impact of plastic pollution. Discarded plastic has degraded ocean ecosystems and severely impacted fishing and tourism as well.
Landesberg concluded that while it may seem cheaper to keep producing plastic, its true cost is exorbitantly high and has untold consequences for societies and generations.