The war against single-use plastics rages in environmental and political circles. A big target of that war are the manufacturers who rely on plastic to package their products. Those against plastic packaging insist manufacturers should switch to more environmentally friendly options. But what is the incentive to do so?
If saving the planet is the only incentive, it’s not going to work. Saving the planet doesn’t pay the bills. It does not generate revenues to pay employees. It doesn’t generate profit, which is the whole purpose of being in business.
Look at it this way. Seraphim Plastics is a Tennessee company that has every incentive to buy plastic scrap from industrial operations and turn it into regrind. They can do so easily and effectively. And when all is said and done, they make a tidy profit. Therein lies their incentive. Take away the profit and Seraphim Plastics goes out of business.
Let’s Talk Legal Marijuana
Industrial plastics are not single-use plastics. That said, using Seraphim Plastics as an example might not be fair. So let’s talk about legal marijuana. According to a Leafly article from late 2022, Canada’s pot industry generates up to 70 times more plastic waste than it does actual marijuana. Why? Because nearly every producer and manufacturer relies on plastic packaging.
Canadian regulations are strict when it comes to marijuana packaging. Packages must be transparent or translucent. They need to be tamper proof. They need to be large enough to accommodate both product labels and tax stamps.
Plastic represents the cheapest way for manufacturers to comply with regulations in the packaging realm. But wait. Shouldn’t manufacturers accept lower profit margins in order to keep plastic waste out of landfills?
Be Careful About That Marketing
According to Leafly, Canadian marijuana companies need to be incredibly careful about how they market their products. Regulations are so strict that it’s nearly impossible to market based on using environmentally friendly packaging. Why is that a problem? Leafly cited a study that puts things in perspective.
The study revealed that, without the ability to market environmentally friendly packaging, marijuana companies have no incentive to stop using cheap plastic. What does marketing have to do with it? Everything.
Marijuana producers and manufacturers would be willing to use more expensive packaging if they could market the environmentally friendly nature of that packaging. Marketing would produce sales and sales would cover the costs of higher-priced packaging. But since they cannot do that, they are unwilling to absorb the financial hit that comes with environmentally friendly packaging.
It Always Boils Down to Money
Modern culture likes to debate the alleged plastics problem from the standpoint of waste and sustainability. Such debates make excellent fodder for blog posts and symposiums. They make great headlines for digital and print articles. But the truth is that they are meaningless debates. Why? Because it always boils down to money.
Manufacturers in every sector rely on plastic because it is cheap. It is cheap to manufacture and cheap to modify for everything from packaging to product construction. Cheap means lower retail prices and higher profits.
Meanwhile, consumers are not innocent here. We get upset whenever consumer prices go up. We want access to cheap retail prices. We enjoy them largely because plastic is so pervasive in manufacturing. Get rid of plastic and prices go up right away. Not only that, but certain consumer goods also cannot be manufactured any other way.
Environmentally friendly packaging has been slow to catch on because there is little incentive to use it. Complaining about will not change anything. So how about we give it a rest?