Corporate Waste

Jeffrey Xiong

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A few weeks ago, the Environmental Club opened up sales to reusable boba straws, selling out in just a few short days, hopefully reducing plastic waste from constantly using new boba straws every time we feel the primal urge to seek out that sweet, sweet taste of sugary tea. Nationwide, the advent of consumer-centered activism, the increased awareness of environmental issues, and the increased availability of cheap environment-focused products has generated an environmental movement centered around consumer choice for and of greener lifestyles choices. But should the focus be so overwhelmingly on consumers?

 

Out of the magical three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) drilled into students, whether it be from teachers, family, or Bill Nye the Science Guy, the emphasis has largely been placed on recycling, in of itself a flawed method, whereas national “reduce” and “reuse” programs and policies are largely minimal. This reflects the placement of the responsibility of saving the environment on average consumers, whether it be local pollution, regional runoff or global warming. Indeed, the level of consumer activism is pretty substantial; 31% of consumers actively reward companies with good green records and 21% avoid poor-quality companies, and they can indeed be effective, but is it enough?

 

Clearly, Nestle and Amazon are still alive and kicking — with Amazon reporting record profits — so it’s evident that boycotts or coordinated action are insufficient to substantially hurt companies. The rate at which we use plastic is still rising, with almost all industry centered around the use of plastics. U.S. policy fails to keep up with the demands of global warming, providing a permanent spot for companies wishing to avoid environmental regulations. Perhaps it is time for a new method of environmental reform.

 

In 2017, a report revealed that 71% of all greenhouse emissions are produced by corporations, widely publicized by this viral tweet from late 2018. Oil spills have gotten worse, not better, while Congress has failed to act; killing local wildlife, countering countless of local community cleanup efforts. Local ocean ecosystems are on the brink of collapse from over-fishing, despite international boycotts to promote and foster sustainable fisheries.

 

It should thus be their responsibility to fix the environment. Since corporations have overwhelmingly more sway over the conditions of the environment, both in terms of their negative impacts on the environment and the amount of capital they possess, it is natural that the brunt of the responsibility be placed on the shoulders of corporations, whether it be through government regulation, united calls for total reform, international agreements, or even altruistic action — though that one is a far less realistic proposition, based on history.

Oil spill cleanups should constantly be dealt with, hopefully by the perpetrators — and possibly spurring greater focus on green tech in the process. Heavy polluters ought be regulated and restricted. The focus of the garbage patch should not be the mere cleanup of the patch by independent agents, but rather the reduction of plastic usage by corporations. And the brunt of the burden of cleaning up after the ill effects of anthropological climate change lie squarely on the shoulders of corporations. The focus on getting individuals to make their behavior greener is good and worthwhile; but future efforts should be on more punishments and rewards for corporations, ones greater than the boycotts they easily brush off. Individuals have done all we can. Now we need to give the rest of the work to the ones responsible for our predicaments.