When you walk down the cleaning aisle at the store, your line of vision is immediately filled with bright red, blue, and green plastic bottles. Plastic is originally colorless, or a milky white that is fairly translucent. The colorful, opaque pigment added to laundry detergent bottles or spray cleaners are meant to snag the customer’s attention in hopes that they purchase it. But what other functions—or effects—do plastic dyes have?
Though colors certainly make our lives more vivid and help brands create recognizable products, plastic dyes do not have many other positive functions. Let’s take a look at the negative side of dyes and colorants in plastic bottles.
Non-recyclable and Unsustainable
Dyed plastic can often not be safely recycled. The ironic truth is, when you purchase a “sustainable” cleaning product dyed green, it is actually quite unsustainable. The colored product will be flagged in the material recovery facility and removed as a contaminant during the recycling process because it cannot be reused and re-dyed into another color. Clear plastic or “natural” plastics will always be preferred because they are more malleable and can actually be recycled and reused. In fact, some countries like Japan have unanimously agreed to use no colored plastic bottles in order to more easily reach their industry recycling goals.
“Sustainability” has become a buzzword many brands and companies have latched onto—some for the wrong reasons. These brands have turned “sustainability” into an aesthetic rather than an actual practice through green dyes and other superfluous biodegradable packaging to hook ecologically-conscious customers. Unfortunately, these same customers are usually unaware that the green bottle they later leave in the recycling bin is actually destined to leach chemicals in the landfill.
Environmental and Health Hazard
The toxic substances used to make the color green and other popular packaging colors like red and blue contain hazardous chemicals, such as: chlorine, cobalt, titanium, nickel, zinc oxide, lead, and cadmium to name just a few. Several of these hazardous chemicals are known to cause cancer and birth defects and most of them are endocrine disruptors, yet manufacturers still use them and we still reach for them.
The plastic dyes can coat plastic bottles both internally and externally, bringing the dye into direct contact with the product itself and the consumer’s skin. As a result, these toxic additives are inevitably absorbed in the body, whether through direct or indirect contact. For example, the dyes on a laundry detergent bottle can release toxins into the liquid itself, later coming into contact with your body once any clothes, towels, and linens have been washed with it.
The environment is harmed similarly when colored plastics in landfills leach toxins into waterways and runoff, harming ecosystems and wildlife but also contaminating our water sources and soil. Inevitably, when the planet is harmed, so are its inhabitants.
What’s the Solution?
Plastic production has increased exponentially over the last 60 years due to its inexpensive and multipurpose nature. Even as negative knowledge of it increases, plastic won’t be disappearing any time soon. So far, the advocated solution to the negative side-effects of plastic is sound waste management. The first step in this process is to eliminate the additives—such as colorants and dyes—that prevent plastic’s ability to be recycled and reused. Less additives also results in less toxic exposure in both humans and the environment.
While this may not be a lifetime solution to sustainability, it is a tangible first step while other options are being studied and explored. People who use their consumer power by purchasing products with clear plastic bottles are supporting sustainability by avoiding plastic dyes and pushing more manufacturers to do so.
Fawn Organics is always making strides toward sustainability in its products to lessen environmental impact and to protect the consumer. Right now, Fawn Organics’ first step is using clear, natural plastic packaging for its plant-based cleaning products. Eliminating the toxic additives found in dyes and colorants is our first step to eliminating unnecessary plastic waste and protecting the environment and the consumer. Sustainable solutions are always evolving, and Fawn Organics is excited for the future of our products, in which we can once day reach the goal of complete sustainability.
What are your thoughts? Does clear plastic have a role in sustainability right now?
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