“Biodegredible” Products and a Business Led Approach to Ocean Pollution

Our oceans – with their breathtaking beauty and immense ecological diversity – are vulnerable thanks to increasing levels of plastic pollution. A 2015 study estimates that 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic enter the seas each year. To reverse this disturbing trend and ensure long term ocean health, we should act to reduce our plastic consumption and champion alternative eco-friendly materials.

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Leading the efforts to reduce plastic waste is Loliware, a company that produces “biodegredible” cups made of seaweed, organic sweeteners, and flavors derived from fruits and vegetables. Rather than throwing away yet another lightly used cup, with Loliware, you can enjoy a tasty treat and add a unique element to your drinking experience.

Loliware is currently developing an edible alternative to the widely used plastic straw. It’s innovative businesses like Loliware that make our world a better place and cast hope on the future of our oceans.

Loliware provides just one example of shifting business and consumer attitudes when it comes to the need for alternatives to plastic. SeaWorld recently announced that it plans to remove plastic straws and shopping bags in all of its 12 parks. Alaska Airlines also intends to eliminate plastic straws from its flights.

Business and consumer led initiatives, not heavy-handed government mandates, are more effective in generating traction in the efforts to reduce plastic consumption. Government issued bans on plastic often force businesses to raise prices while they scramble for substitute products.

In Seattle, a ban on plastic straws is set to take effect in July. Many business owners are already expressing concern, saying that the higher costs of paper straws and other alternatives will be transferred to consumers.

The city will soon learn that forcing businesses to comply with a plastic straw ban is not the most effective policy. Instead, Seattle should allow environmentally conscious businesses to lead efforts to change consumer attitudes and develop effective alternatives to plastic straws. Businesses that voluntarily abandon plastic straws, as opposed to those that are forced to, are more likely to absorb the cost rather than passing it on to consumers.

While working to reduce plastic straw consumption is a noble cause, more productive options are available to combat ocean pollution. Estimates indicate that straws likely account for just .03 percent of global plastic waste. We certainly should continue to use and develop alternatives to plastic straws, but perhaps too much emphasis is placed on this issue. Other problems, such as abandoned fishing equipment, also deserve attention.      

We all should feel an obligation to protect our oceans from the growing threat of plastic pollution. This can be accomplished through business and consumer led efforts that promote efficiency and innovation. Loliware, SeaWorld, and Alaska Airlines are a just a few examples of companies that are prioritizing ocean health without government intervention. As consumer attitudes continue to shift towards environmental consciousness, together we can usher in a new era of protecting our oceans.

Ronnie Thompson