CIRCULAR ECONOMY, PLASTICS - Marketing Hype: Why Plant-and-Plastic Hybrids Are the Worst of Both Worlds
30 September 2020

Cactus leather. Apple leather. Coffee shoe foam  all subject to marketing / misinformation hype

It seems like every other week, there is a new story praising the latest material that might be a revolutionary new alternative to some existing material, such as plastic or leather.



There is a pattern that connects many of these innovations: they incorporate plants or food (waste) in their composition. These materials often go through a short-lived, but very effective hype by the media, that makes readers celebrate a new sustainable milestone.

But there is often a great disconnect between appearances and how sustainable, on balance, these materials actually are. A key feature of these materials is in the amount of information that the producers choose to omit. Marketing materials are carefully crafted to lead the consumer down a journey to make them believe the product is solving a problem like climate change, or plastic waste, without giving much detail on exactly how. Often a product might say it is “made from” some kind of natural material, even if what it is “made from” only makes up a small fraction of the product.

The crux is in the information imbalance between producers and the larger public, as well as a certain naiveté when it comes to believing marketing claims, especially when they address something as emotionally-laden as our planet and environment. We want to believe that something is good when it addresses a good cause. Unfortunately, the full picture is a lot more complex, and sometimes things do sound too good to be true. To illustrate the problem, we’ve picked out a couple of examples.

Vegan Leathers That Are Hybrids of Plastics and Natural Materials

To read the details of these Hybrids and the rest of this article by Dr. Ashley Holding and Paula Lorenz, click on Circular Economy - Marketing Hype