One Reddit user is rolling their eyes at the irony of an environmental message that came with a new pair of sneakers they received from a major athletic brand.
“My new sneakers came in a box that says to end plastic waste but have small plastic bags attached to them containing the accessories,” one Reddit user said in the r/CorporateFacepalm subreddit. They also included a picture of a culprit bag.
It may be a tiny bag, but it’s part of a big problem. Single-use plastics like this have contributed to what environmentalists are now calling the plastic plague.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic waste are dumped into the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes every single day.
Discarded plastics also make their way into landfills. In 2018, U.S. dumps received 27 million tons of plastic, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Experts only expect the problem to get worse — plastic waste is set to triple by 2040, per the American Lung Association.
All this plastic pollution can have devastating effects on the environment, wildlife, and human health and livelihoods. In fact, the global cost of plastic-related health effects was estimated to be more than $100 billion annually, according to a 2022 report from the Minderoo Foundation.
As plastics break down in size, they eventually transform into what is known as microplastic. The tiny microplastic particles can be swept into the breeze or make it into water sources to later be inhaled or ingested by humans.
According to the American Lung Association, there is indication that breathing in these microplastics and associated chemicals causes damage to the lungs. Studies of patients with cancer and chronic lung disease have consistently found plastic particles in the lungs.
Microplastics in marine environments also pose a likely risk to wildlife. Organisms at the base of the food chain like plankton and fish larvae are known to consume microplastics. Of course, larger plastics also make their way into the environment, threatening animals like sea turtles.
The good news is that scientists and companies are working on some innovative ideas to deal with the plastic plague. For one, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh are experimenting with a process called pyrolysis, where plastic can be chemically broken down into more valuable chemicals. The goal is to use these chemicals to repurpose plastics into high-value products, and the process is relatively cheap.
Another example of an innovative solution to plastic pollution is the creation of edible utensils and drinkware like Sorbos Edible Straws, Cupffee Edible Coffee Cups, and Incredible Eats Edible Spoons.
As for the sneakers, commenters were not impressed by the environmental messaging fail from Adidas.
Another one pointed to the similar hypocritical environmental marketing that goes on in the fast food industry. “My favourite is getting fast food in plastic cups with paper straws,” they said.
Join our free newsletter for cool news and actionable info that makes it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.