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Are Plastic Neutrality and Carbon Offsets Effective?

In an exclusive interview, Tru Earth CEO Brad Liski explains why these programs are not the right strategies for solving the plastic waste crisis.

Brad Liski, CEO, Tru Earth
Brad Liski, CEO, Tru Earth

Brad Liski, chief executive officer and co-founder of eco-friendly household products company Tru Earth, the maker of Eco-Strips ultra-concentrated laundry detergent strips, explains why plastic neutrality programs and carbon offsets are not the right strategies for solving the plastic waste crisis.

Packaging World:

You have said that you see “plastic neutrality as a mask for companies to continue producing plastic en masse, but then being able to ‘offset’ through financial means.” Can you explain what plastic neutrality consists of and why you feel it just gives license to large CPGs to continue what they’re doing?

Brad Liski:

Certainly. Plastic neutrality consists of balancing your plastic footprint by removing the same amount of plastic waste from the environment that you create. In other words, for every bit of plastic you create, you recover and dispose of it “properly.” While at first glance this sounds like an amazing idea, ultimately this ends up being a mask for companies to continue producing mass amounts of plastic. It allows large CPGs to appear as if they are part of the solution, when really they continue to be the problem. In order to join the solution, companies must eradicate plastic from the supply chain. It’s time to stop talking about what to do with waste and start caring about not producing it. We have proven that plastic is no longer needed for laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaners, and multi-surface cleaners. Now is the time to stop using it.


   Read this interview with Jon Silverman, senior vice president, Physical Products, for Grove Collaborative.


Do you see any benefits to plastic neutrality/carbon offsets?

Of course there are benefits to plastic neutrality, but the rate at which our economy is producing plastic—especially single-use plastics—far outweighs the amount that can ever be recycled. Did you know that every three minutes, humans dump the weight equivalent of a humpback-whale’s worth of plastic into the ocean? Every three minutes of every day.

As for carbon offsets, there are some benefits, but they can be misused. Carbon offsets allow corporations to pay for their carbon emissions through carbon credits and carbon reduction projects. These types of projects are important, but they are a short-term solution. Doing these projects for the sole purpose of carbon offsets without a plan to transition to a net-zero future demonstrates the systemic problems we have in continuing business as usual. Buying carbon credits is a very slippery slope because if a corporation is making enough profit to pay for their pollution, the incentive is never there to actually stop—merely write a check and keep the smokestack running.

Consumers often seem confused about what sustainability means. What do you think they are looking for when it comes to more eco-friendly products and packaging?

Sustainability is confusing, and greenwashing is a massive problem, often causing eco-anxiety in many people. We believe in the transparency of our ingredients, our manufacturing process, and paying living wages. These all factor into what is truly sustainable. A core belief of Tru Earth is that many small hinges can swing a very big door. For consumers, sustainability can be intimidating. They feel like they have to completely alter their everyday life in order to achieve a sustainable status. That’s not the case. Consumers want easy, convenient, familiar. So when it comes to sustainability, they are looking for products that don’t disrupt their everyday routine but make a positive impact on the world. We can all work together to help save the planet one change at a time.

Tru Earth offers a line of Eco-Strips dissolvable laundry detergent strips in paper packaging.Tru Earth offers a line of Eco-Strips dissolvable laundry detergent strips in paper packaging.What is required by CPGs to drive a more circular economy around plastics and packaging? What are the challenges?

If CPG manufacturers want to drive a circular economy with respect to plastics, they need to pause and think about reducing and eliminating single-use plastics in their production. This is especially true for product packaging. Unfortunately recycled plastic is often more expensive than virgin plastic and can be harder on equipment. This makes a circular economy near impossible with plastic.

Overall, today’s materials must ensure that manufactured products remain within the circular economy and that nothing is manufactured based on single use. It needs to be the manufacturer’s responsibility to get their packaging back and process it again for re-entering the supply chain. This is very difficult in large countries like North America. I strongly believe it will be faster and better to just create packaging that biodegrades in backyard environments or have real recycling markets available. Furthermore, CPG manufacturers need to invest in educating consumers about how harmful single-use plastics can be, not only to their lives, but also to society and the environment.

Challenges to this are similar to what I mentioned earlier—it is cheaper to manufacture CPG products in plastic. It’s hard to break a cycle that hasn’t changed for decades. The process is slow, but we need CPG firms to commit to reducing and eliminating waste to create lasting change that will help save the planet. Tru Earth won’t stop until this happens. It will cost more to manufacture, but it’s worth it and is at the core of our values. At Tru Earth, we want to be a role model in the marketplace and prove that a company can be successful and actively contribute to eliminating single-use plastic.


   Read this interview with äkta CEO Blair Kralick on sustainable packaging for cannabis.


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