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Plastic Pollution and Social Institutions Essay

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Updated: Jun 18th, 2021

Plastic pollution is a serious environmental hazard that threatens the integrity of many ecosystems as well as the health and prosperity of both human and marine life. At the same time, there is very little progress being made in that department, with any ecologically-inclined initiatives being taken only on local and regional levels. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the political and economic barriers that hamper the efforts to reduce plastic pollution and discuss the ways in how they could be overcome.

The Politics of Plastic Pollution

Despite the damaging effects that plastic has on the environment, many companies and businesses are directly interested in maintaining the existing status quo (Dauvergne, 2018). Food and beverage companies are some of the biggest users of single-use plastic packages, such as bottles, glasses, and wrappings. Since plastic is cheap, it allows them to keep the overall price of the product competitively low, which would have been different had they used glass, metal, or paper for packaging.

Although Coca-Cola recently signed the UK Plastics Pact to improve its public image, the company was known to lobby anti-environmental laws that prevented regulation on plastic use for decades on end (Dauvergne, 2018). The plastics industry is connected to the oil industry, which is one of the most influential political players in the world (Dauvergne, 2018). Thus, the coalition against the environment is powerful and well-represented in international politics. These companies are putting their short-term interest ahead of the environment.

The Economics of Plastic Pollution

Plastics are considered to be one of the cheapest packaging sources currently available on the market. It helps keep the products competitive by reducing the amount of money and material spent on individual packaging as much as possible.

However, the incremental price of plastics is much higher than initially anticipated because of the damage it does to the environment. Nobody calculates the impact on marine life and human health when making spreadsheets for expenditures and revenues because the company does not have to directly bear the costs (Beaumont et al., 2019). At the same time, the damage dealt by plastics to the marine populations and the environment exceeds 2.5 trillion USD per year (Beaumont et al., 2019). Had the plastic-producing companies been responsible for these expenditures, plastic would have ceased being an economically viable solution.

Overcoming Political and Economic Hurdles

To solve the plastic problem, a series of complex solutions are required. Although nearly every plastic and oil-producing company announce its “commitment to the environment,” there is very little evidence to suggest their genuine concern and willingness to protect the environment at the price of losing revenue or competitive value. Therefore, a political solution would require action from all governments involved, which would be a force greater than the international plastic lobby. It could be used to enforce new universal rules regarding plastic production and disposal.

Alternatively, the same body could use its power to place the collective burden of 2.5 trillion dollars a year on the companies responsible for it (Dauvergne, 2018). However, that solution is unlikely to work, as the world’s political map is currently fragmented, and the ability to enforce such decisions is limited. The other solution is to provide alternative means of packaging from biodegradable and replenishable materials (Ganesan, Shanmugam, & Bhat, 2018). One potential solution involves making degradable plastics from seaweed, which is a readily available resource.

Conclusions

Plastic pollution is a serious political and economic problem, as the forces of the market dictate for companies to place competitive pricing and revenue about anything else. While a purely political solution is possible, the current state of the world government systems will not allow its implementation on a large scale. A technological solution is more likely to succeed. The research should focus on providing large companies with alternative means of producing packages for items and foodstuffs to reduce the amount of plastic disposed into the oceans.

References

Beaumont, N. J., Aanesen, M., Austen, M. C., Börger, T., Clark, J. R., Cole, M.,… & Wyles, K. J. (2019). Global ecological, social and economic impacts of marine plastic. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 142, 189-195.

Dauvergne, P. (2018). Why is the global governance of plastic failing the oceans? Global Environmental Change, 51, 22-31.

Ganesan, A. R., Shanmugam, M., & Bhat, R. (2018). Producing novel edible films from semi refined carrageenan (SRC) and ulvan polysaccharides for potential food applications. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 112, 1164-1170.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Plastic Pollution and Social Institutions." June 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/plastic-pollution-and-social-institutions/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Plastic Pollution and Social Institutions'. 18 June.

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