Are Those Eco-Friendly Product Labels Telling the Truth?

Reusable and refillable containers will reduce reliance on throwaway plastic.

(StatePoint) When you see a product labeled “eco-friendly,” or “environmentally sustainable,” it can be tempting to take this at face-value and feel good about your purchase. However, a new report shows that while many major companies are making claims that they are tackling the plastic pollution crisis, there are reasons to be skeptical.

The report, “Throwing Away the Future: How Companies Still Have It Wrong on Plastic Pollution ‘Solutions’,” from Greenpeace USA, warns consumers that many solutions announced by companies to tackle the plastic pollution crisis -- such as switching to paper or ‘bioplastics,’ or embracing chemical recycling -- are not only failing to move us away from single-use packaging, but are diverting attention away from efforts to refill and reuse.

“Despite increasing scientific understanding of the irreversible damage plastic can cause to our environment and communities, plastic production is projected to increase dramatically in the coming years,” says Ivy Schlegel, Greenpeace USA senior research specialist, who authored the report. “Corporations are scrambling to look greener by promoting what they are calling ‘sustainable alternatives.’ But these so-called solutions are actually false promises that put unacceptable pressures on natural resources. To solve the plastic pollution crisis, companies need to rethink how products are delivered to consumers and invest instead in reusable and refillable delivery systems.”

While many companies have signaled their intent to make packaging more recyclable, reusable, compostable or from recycled content, the latest figures show they are aiming to continue, and even increase disposable packaging. By the end of 2019, global plastic production and burning is projected to emit the carbon equivalent of 189 coal-fired power plants, according to the Center for International Environmental Law. And it is estimated that by 2050, there will be 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste in natural environments.

While the biggest change will need to come at the corporate level, the experts at Greenpeace say that individuals can get involved in the following ways:

• Be wary of vague marketing terms and sustainability language. Just because a label claims to be good for the environment, doesn’t make it true.

• Whenever possible, buy items using reusable and refillable containers.

• Demand that corporations take action to end the plastic pollution crisis. One easy way to do that is by signing Greenpeace’s international petition at Greenpeace.org.

As more companies claim to go green, you can take action by thinking critically about claims made on product labels, and by looking for solutions that eliminate single-use packaging and plastic.

Photo Credit: (c) Newman Studio / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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