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Do we need corporate action or consumer action for zero waste?

Listen to the audio of this post here:

This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on May 17, 2021.

Last week I posted a TikTok about how plastics aren’t actually recyclable. The intent of the video was to share information about how the composition of plastic makes it so that it cannot be fully recycled back into new plastic, compared to something like aluminum.

There was no blaming, shaming, or even really a call-to-action in the video. Just sharing information.

After posting it, I very quickly received a comment that said, “Pretending this is a consumer issue is not going to help anything. Corporations have to be legally forced to change practice. Vote with $ ok. But VOTE.”

And before I go any further, let me start by saying that it is impossible to fully express all of the complexities of sustainability in one 60-second TikTok video. I was talking as fast as I possibly could in this video and barely fit in the minimum of what I wanted to share. So, let’s just get that out of the way.

Now. The point of today’s email is this. I agree with this comment.


Like I said, these are COMPLEX issues. And they do not exist in vacuums.

A Drop in the Ocean Tacoma Zero Waste Sustainable Living Blog Do we need corporate or consumer action?


Yes. Absolutely. 💯. Corporations and producers need to be held accountable. Governments need to create - and enforce - better policies to do so. Waste shouldn’t be a consumer problem.

But the reality is...that’s not what’s happening.

Instead, plastic producers have lobbied to make waste our problem.

When bottle companies switched from glass to plastic and started saving a ton of money in the process, and litter started becoming a real issue, these companies dumped money into campaigns like Keep America Beautiful, telling us that it’s our responsibility to deal with waste, completely taking the eyes off of them and their responsibility for creating waste in the first place.

So now we’ve got plastics being produced out the wazoo, and plastic manufacturers telling us it’s our problem - and in fact, telling us it’s our fault, because we keep buying it.

But like, excuse me, Coca-Cola, what other options are you giving us?!

And because these companies are dumping money into campaign funds, our elected officials aren’t making any big moves to change anything.

So that leaves us with…well…us.

And that doesn’t mean that I believe that my reusable straw is gonna change the world.

But it does mean that no societal change has ever happened without pressure from individual people like you and me.

So if we want to see these large scale changes - like governments making better policies and corporations taking responsibility for the waste they create - we need to speak up.

But if we don’t know that the chemical structure of plastic makes it fundamentally impossible to create a new plastic bottle from an old plastic bottle - how do we know, or care, to speak up?

"In the end we will conserve only what we love;
we will love only what we understand;
and we will understand only what we are taught."
- Baba Dioum, 1968

Everything that we do here at A Drop in the Ocean is founded in these beliefs:

  1. Everyone can be a conservationist in their daily life.
  2. Sustainable living should never be another task on your to-do list.
  3. One small action can have massive ripple effects.
  4. We need both bottom-up and top-down changes.
  5. The consumer shouldn’t be responsible for packaging.

So, I understand that it is impossible to get everything across in a single TikTok video. And I understand that most of the people watching my videos right now are people that have never heard of A Drop in the Ocean before, and perhaps may never see another one of our videos again. And I know that this post may be preaching to the choir.

But just in case somewhere along the line this message was lost in translation, I needed to share this today.

So, friend, will you share something with me? What was the moment for you? The aha moment that inspired you to live lighter on the planet? I’d truly, absolutely love to hear what your moment was. Will you comment below and share it with me?

Thank you for being an EcoWarrior 💙


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