This Environment Day, the world could finally and unanimously convince itself to go Plastic Free. The good thing is, we have somehow managed to acknowledge the elephant in the room, quite literally, given its expanse and impact. The widely accepted fact that every single piece of plastic ever made, still exists, is enough to suggest that plastics have taken over the world. In fact, data suggests, enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. The magnitude of the situation looks bleak and grim.

The root cause of the problem seems to be our buying and consumption behavior. In fact, over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century while 50 percent of the plastic we use, is used just once and thrown away. While most of the efforts emphasize on solving the issue by addressing this consumer behavior, the role of simultaneously regulating the production of new single use plastic will play a vital role in our fight against plastic pollution.

Greenpeace India volunteers have been campaigning over the past few days in Bangalore to make big retailers realize this grave issue and their massive contribution towards escalating it further.

They have been posting on their twitter accounts, raising concerns with regards to one of the most rampant, unmindful and unnecessary ways of inflating the issue of plastic pollution further – Unsustainable Packaging; spotted in the respective retail super-giants.

Companies, in the pursuit of placing their product, above all their respective competitors, often indulge in packaging gimmicks which are highly irrational and unessential. How does one know?  It’s easy, you know it as soon as you spot it!

In a market full of tough competition and immense opportunities, companies go berserk with their branding and product positioning. One key aspect is its packaging and its look and feel. This is done in the quest to create a niche for the product and to make it stand out in the midst of multiple variants/brands. The quest for profits and market capture has resulted in a massive investment into product packaging over the last few years resulting the issue of plastic pollution to be aggravated to this level.

Plastics, in the form of packaging, have now become the basis of brand positioning and a newly built customer relationship and loyalty around it. They are an epitome of brand superiority and an evolved product choice.

Let us try to understand it a bit further.  How often do we realize the role of packaging in consumer choices and buying behavior that we may ourselves exhibit? We live in an era of perceptions; and for sure they are not limited to be deceiving but, as in this case, are detrimental too. How often do we make smart choices based on composition, source and its impact on our environment when we pick up something from a supermarket shelf? We are driven by tendencies that are meant to encourage us, like others, even we fall for perceptions created by manufacturers and dealers. And you may agree we are helpless.

While, as smarter than before consumers, we may slowly drag ourselves towards the path of course correction, the hefty onus for limiting plastics in our supply chain to minimal, subsequently lies with the manufacturers, producers and most importantly regulators.

We have a crucial, dual role to play in this fight towards curbing plastic pollution. First and foremost we need to tame our consumption behavior so as to minimize the contribution of our choices to the world’s plastic woes; and the next step being – holding companies and manufacturers accountable and guilty for generating massive plastic waste and compelling them towards sustainable alternatives.

Imagining an era free of plastic pollution may look difficult given the extent of the issue and our enhanced dependencies, but is not an impossible feat to achieve. Together, with small steps of cumulative and collaborative actions, we may be able to define and shape our future.