Holding Companies Accountable for the Lifecycle of their Products
We all consume items at a ridiculous pace these days. The amount of items we purchase on any given year can be mind boggling. Whether it’s food packaging, clothes and apparel, or the newest technology product, we are constantly faced with the reality of disposing trash and old items on a regular basis.
Which brings up a bigger question of how responsible are companies to their products once a transaction is made? Is the onus on the consumer to dispose of them correctly? Just who is responsible for items as a product nears its end? Do they become our trash or does the burden of responsibility shift back to the companies that produce them?
One of the most shockingly grim look into our future can be found in the popular Disney and Pixar’s feature film, Wall-E.
In it, our tiny robot hero shifts through piles and piles of garbage that humans have left behind and the endless amount of trash has made the planet inhabitable. While this may seem as a radical hyperbole, we are truly not that far off from this reality.
Consumers have done a better job as of late to reduce Earth’s carbon footprint. This includes ramped up recycling efforts, utilizing reusable containers, and disposing of trash in the right locations. But are we doing enough to hold companies and corporations responsible for the lifecycle of their products?
What Consumers Should Demand from Companies
Paperless options – Whether its weekly circulars or billing statements, the continued reduction of paper materials can only benefit the environment. Most companies have enacted programs to communicate via email and for companies who don’t have a system in place, it’s a fair point to suggest going paperless.
Apparel recycling programs – The U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste estimates that per person, Americans discard clothing materials at an estimated 68 pounds of clothing and textiles a year. It is also estimated that 99 percent of what is thrown away can be recycled. While Americans are doing a fairly good job of donating used clothing materials to organizations such as Goodwill Industries, manufacturers should be held responsible to put a program in place that helps to utilize recycled materials. Nike’s ReUse a Shoe program, exercises sustainability and they are dedicated to finding long-term solutions to help reduce the amount of shoes in landfills. There’s information on drop-off locations and learn about the company’s “closed-loop” business model, where waste is reduced at different stages of their operations.
Sustainable and eco-friendly packaging Because consumers can help determine the fate of the end products we consume, it’s a fair question to ask whether or not the byproducts are eco-friendly. Manufacturers can use more recyclable products and help environment from degrading. This will pay off as the demand of environmentally friendly products is increasing rapidly. Even in economic downturn 35% said they are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products. Companies have already started investing heavily in this area. PolyPak America is a leader in the production and manufacturing of wholesale poly bags. They have taken a lot of initiatives in becoming environmentally responsible. The company products are now made with recycled material. The company also invests in planting trees, sponsoring and using alternate source of energy. There are many companies like Polypak who are now becoming environmentally friendly companies. To improve environmental conditions we need more companies like Polypak. As consumers, if we enjoy certain products and continue to support those companies, demanding bio-degradable packaging materials is a fair question to ask. If they do not provide adequate proof, suggesting eco-friendly alternatives can initiate changes and action that will protect the environment.
Kraft Foods recently did a thorough analysis of the impacts of its products throughout its life cycle. The lifecycle assessment (LCA)helped to implement changes and analyze what is working. One of their findings and analysis led to the use of 60 percent less plastic packaging in their salad dressing bottle. Kraft is actively implementing their Eco-Calculator™ tool toencourage the use of sustainable packaging across their product lines. Kraft exemplifies how more and more brands are taking ownership of the lifespan of their products past consumption.
Information and education on how to dispose of their products – It’s been a year since the state of New York passed a law that requires electronic companies to provide convenient drop off locations for electronic waste. According to eWasteCenter Inc., electronic devices contain high levels of toxic materials such as lead, barium, cadmium and mercury that can have dire consequences when incorrectly disposed. This law is a great example to how corporations should be held responsible for their products impact on the environment.