The work of Emma Rose Cohen has drawn the attention of celebrities and has begun a viral movement where people are saying, “no” to plastics.
We recently had the opportunity to chat with the CEO of Final, Emma Rose Cohen, about the impact plastics are having on the environment.
Emma Rose Cohen is the CEO of Final, the company that created the collapsable, reusable straw. Her goal? She is tired of seeing waste build-up on our planet and has decided to do something to eliminate it.
It all started with “Save the Mermaids,” a non-profit she and her friends founded to raise awareness about keeping the oceans clean. That path eventually led her to create multiple-use items to replace environmentally-damaging single-use items.
Her story is a fascinating one, as she recently took the time to chat about her entire background with me for Monsters and Critics Magazine. (Follow this link to read it.)
For our readers here, though, we wanted to learn more about who she is as a person. What drives her? Who is she and why does she care so much about what she is doing?
All this and more in the interview below. Here is what Emma Rose Cohen had to say.
CM interviewer – Ryan Mekkes: So I know in your Ted talk, you shared that in the U.S. alone we use 500 million straws every day. Can you briefly explain what kind of impact that has on the environment? That as well as the waste build-up that we have really not been responsible for cleaning up? What kind of impact does that have?
Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah, so single-use plastic straws are a tiny fraction of all the waste that’s produced. I think the media has focused on them because it’s something that’s really actionable and it’s an item that we can all relate with. And it’s also an item that, for the majority of people, is not necessary; it’s a novelty. It’s something that’s kind of fun to use but not a necessity. But single-use plastic, in general, is wreaking havoc on the environment.
There are statistics out there that say by 2050 there’s going to be more plastic than fish in the ocean — by weight, not by volume — which is staggering. I think, obviously, one of the big issues with single-use plastic is that it doesn’t biodegrade. So instead of a banana peel that ends up in the dirt, which goes back into becoming dirt, single-use plastic actually photodegrades. So when it’s exposed to light, it breaks down into lots of tiny pieces that persist in the environment, and also, absorb other toxins. So what happens is when all of this plastic ends up in the ocean, it breaks down into these little pieces that are the same size as plankton.
So fish are eating the plastic, thinking it’s plankton, and it’s entering the food chain, and eventually, affecting humans and getting into our food chain. There’s all these different studies out there that are saying humans eat a teaspoon of plastic a week. It’s present in our tap water, it’s present in our sea salt, and it’s everywhere. So there are all these efforts right now to do cleanup, but we really have to actually turn off the tap and reduce the amount of plastic that’s being produced, because cleanup isn’t going to fix it.
CM: Wow. I never realized that. So thank you, first of all. Okay, so what’s the end goal? What are the changes that you want to see? You’re an authority in this field; what are the actionable steps you’re hoping companies take in response to these facts?
Emma Rose Cohen: What I would really like to see would be more statutes surrounding extended manufacturer responsibilities. So what that means is that every product that a company creates, they would then be responsible for the footprint it leaves behind. The Coca-Cola bottle that you drink from and then throw away ends up in a landfill, yet Coca-Cola currently doesn’t have to pay for the cleanup or for extracting pieces of plastic from marine animals. It’s the taxpayers that have to pay for that.
Coca-Cola is the number one polluter in the world. They should be responsible for their materials from cradle to grave. They should be held accountable for it – for reusing it or recycling it. So, what I would like to see would be more regulations around company responsibilities, as well as what companies are allowed to produce. What it would do is incentivize companies to make things that are either actually recyclable, or modular enough that they can be fixed and repaired. It’s nearly impossible to change a battery on an iPhone; if the regulations were such that we had to make it so that it wasn’t designed for obsolescence, there would be a lot less electronic waste.
CM: So you want to see companies claim responsibility for the lifetime duration of the products that they produce?
Emma Rose Cohen: Yes. Exactly.
CM: That’s great thinking. And what are some companies that you see out there that you would commend for taking the right steps? Are there any companies out there that you would say are doing the right thing in spite of that legislation not even existing at this time?
Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah. I mean, I’ve seen recently that Starbucks has made some pretty drastic commitments to lowering their environmental impact. If they stick to what they say they’re going to do, I would say it’s pretty impressive, the commitments that they’re making — and in the timeframe they’re proposing. Because you see a lot of companies committing to making certain changes, but by 2050. We need change now. We need radical, systemic change that isn’t 30 years in the future.
CM: Yeah. That’s so far off; that’s just basically putting it off into neverland.
Emma Rose Cohen: Exactly.
CM: So I know that you have a real passion for nature and the outdoors. How does getting out in nature impact your mindset with all of this?
Emma Rose Cohen: I think nature is kind of where I connect with the reason why I’m doing what I’m doing. The natural world to me is where all creation comes from, and so to be out there and to know that the mountains can’t protect themselves, the oceans can’t protect themselves — it makes me ask myself, “What am I doing to leave these places better than when I found them?”
CM: If you had to sum up your life purpose — your life message, what would you say that is?
Emma Rose Cohen: I would say, “Your voice matters.” I used to not understand how powerful my voice is. But by launching this company, I realized that one small idea can change the world. It can change people’s perspectives. We never know how powerful our voice is until we go out and use it.
CM: Amazing. So other than Final Straw, do you have any additional products planned for rollout that you can talk about at this time?
Emma Rose Cohen: we’re releasing FinalFork this spring, and so that’s our next product. It’s going to be a reasonable collapsible fork that replaces sets of cutlery.
CM: Awesome! So, in closing, what’s the end goal for your company? You’ve got this viral momentum going with your products — what is your company hoping to ultimately achieve when all is said and done?
Emma Rose Cohen: Yeah, the idea is to continue innovating and designing around waste, because ultimately I see waste as a design flaw. So we will continue looking at all of the things that we interact with on a daily basis that create waste and figure out ways to design around them.