Once heralded as a scientific discovery, plastic has become a scourge in our present society, both through the amount produced as well as how it remains in the environment for hundreds of years.
As more about sustainability and carbon emissions comes to light, plastic waste is one of the most significant environmental challenges facing the world today. A large proportion of this waste comes from the packaging of beverages: In fact, 480 billion PET bottles are purchased annually by consumers, and only nine percent of them are ever recycled. This doesn't even touch on the amount of plastic that isn't - or can't be - recycled.
Concerns Surrounding the Impact of Plastic Waste
Because they can take hundreds to even thousands of years to break down, plastics are one of the most significant environmental challenges facing the world today. This waste is having a range of negative effects on ecosystems, wildlife and human health.
You can see this through the amount of pollution in our oceans. An estimated 8 million tons of plastic end up in the oceans each year, and this plastic waste is having a devastating impact on marine life. Sea turtles, whales and dolphins are just some of the many species that are being harmed.
On top of this, plastic waste is also contributing to the problem of microplastics, which are tiny plastic particles infiltrating our ecosystems. How plastics break down generates microplastics, as does how synthetic fabrics shed during wear and in the wash. These microplastics can enter the food chain, as they are consumed by marine organisms that are in turn consumed by humans. Studies have shown that microplastics are present in a range of food items, including seafood and bottled water, and the long-term health effects of ingesting these particles are still being studied.
In addition to harming wildlife, plastic waste is also causing damage to ecosystems. For example, plastic waste can block waterways, cause flooding, contaminate soil and reduce the fertility of agricultural land. Additionally, production and the breakdown process both release toxic chemicals, which further harm the environment and contribute to climate change.
How Consumers Can Reduce Plastic Waste
Cutting down on plastic waste involves a three-pronged approach: reduce, recycle and reuse. Yet, this isn't so simple. Businesses continue to use virgin-plastic packaging due to costs and consumer demand. Meanwhile, due to availability, consumers purchase products made or packaged with plastic. An estimated 40 percent of the plastic created involves single-use items and packaging - objects that we throw into the trash without a second thought. In the United States, the average person generates about 300 pounds of plastic trash per year.
Being more aware of consumption habits and seeking out more sustainable packaging help break this cycle.
To reduce the amount of plastic you consume:
- Look at what you consume: Many of us consume disposables - snack foods, to-go coffee, foods wrapped in plastic and takeout - relatively mindlessly because of their ubiquity and convenience. To start reducing how much plastic you use, take an inventory of what you go through on a daily to weekly and even monthly basis. Evaluate what you need - or don't need - and think about more sustainable packaging alternatives you can use in place.
- Stop buying bottled drinks: Bottled water is frequently a culprit. The quickest and easiest alternative is carrying around a reusable water bottle that you can refill.
- Purchase products that can be recycled: Among plastics, #1 plastics are recycled more frequently than other varieties in the United States, followed by #2 and #5. These numbers, however, remain small overall: The global recycling system, including in the United States, is woefully underdeveloped and has neither the supply chain nor the technologies to collect, sort and repurpose the amount of plastic generated by businesses and communities. In turn, much of the plastic we think is being recycled isn't. However, you're encouraged to look beyond to more easily recyclable materials, including aluminum and other metals, paper, cardboard and glass - all recycled at higher rates and less likely to degrade and generate an inferior product upon reuse.
- Buy in bulk: This gives you a chance to eliminate plastic packaging through the snacks you consume on a daily basis, how you prepare foods and how often you're tempted to order takeout.
- Cut down on sources of microplastics: This may mean avoiding toiletries that add microbeads as ingredients. For clothing, install a filter into your washing machine, or use a bag intended to catch and hold onto microplastics. Long term, center your wardrobe around natural fabrics like cotton, linen and wool.
How We Aim to Reduce Plastic Waste at Buddy State
Overall, plastic waste is a significant and pressing environmental challenge, and Buddy State recognizes that urgent action is needed to provide innovative solutions to address this problem.
As per our mantra to reduce, recycle, and reuse, we must note that we are on step one of this journey - reduce. We create beverage products for consumers that significantly reduce the quantity of plastic packaging traditionally used in this industry. Currently, the US recycling system does not allow the recycling of smaller food packaging plastics. As part of step 2, we have developed a fully recyclable film which is not yet commercially available as we are doing further testing. To achieve this, we have invested in new technologies and infrastructure to support the circular economy by promoting the recycling and onward reuse of the plastics we use in Buddy State products. In the journey to reduce, our mission works in parallel with the growth and implementation of recycling technologies to cut down on the amount of plastic being created and reuse what's generated.
By taking a holistic approach that combines individual and collective action, we can work towards a more sustainable future where plastic waste no longer poses the same threat.
As part of step two of our mantra, recycle, Buddy State has developed a proprietary packaging format that enables the use of wholly recyclable plastic materials that can originate from traditional fossil fuels or even more importantly can be sourced from non-fossil fuel, bio-based materials such as plants or even food waste.
Our technology is the world's first aseptic liquid single-serve flexible package that embraces this patented technology and is FDA approved.
Our tea concentrate is liquid and shelf stable for up to two years. Additionally, our method of packaging means that Buddy State product formulations do not require unnecessary use of harmful artificial flavorings or preservatives like many other major brands.
A Holistic Approach to Sustainability
As Buddy State develops even more exciting products, we're committed to working with suppliers and manufacturers to fulfill this mantra of reduce, recycle, reuse. Our commitment also includes promoting sustainable practices in partnering with other organizations to drive change. By doing so, beverage brands can help to shift societal attitudes towards plastic waste and drive a more sustainable future.
That is why Buddy State has teamed up with the Rainforest Alliance and obtained their coveted certification. Rainforest Alliance certification focuses on three key pillars: environmental protection, social equity and economic viability. To meet the environmental protection criteria, products must be sourced and produced in a way that minimizes negative impacts on the environment, including deforestation, pollution and the use of harmful chemicals. Social equity criteria focus on ensuring that workers and communities are treated fairly and that their rights are respected, while economic viability criteria aim to ensure that production is financially sustainable over the long term.
A product that is Rainforest Alliance certified has undergone a rigorous audit process to ensure that it meets these standards. This involves an assessment of the entire supply chain, from the farm or forest where the product is grown to the processing and transportation of the final product. This process is designed to ensure that the product is produced in a way that is environmentally and socially responsible, and that the people involved in its production are treated fairly.
Rainforest Alliance certification is important because it provides consumers with a way to identify products that have been produced in an environmentally and socially responsible way. By choosing products that are Rainforest Alliance certified, consumers can be confident that they are supporting sustainable and responsible production practices.
As we think about our impact, Buddy State is committed to achieving environmental sustainability through a range of measures, such as using alternative materials, reducing the size of the packaging through concentrating our formulations and eliminating unnecessary packaging altogether. If food and beverage brands can help reduce plastic waste and encourage the recycling of their products, we can help our planet recover.