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Our Frenemy Relationship with Plastics


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Why can we not reduce plastic?

Plastic has become an unavoidable part of our daily life, and at present, the plastic waste problem has become a standard portion of the public consciousness. However, some practical challenges need to be addressed in order to reduce our reliance on the substance. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is three times the size of France and each year this patch just keeps getting bigger, it is exactly 8 million metric tonnes bigger.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, only 14% of all plastic produced gets recycled, while the remaining 83% is incinerated, landfilled, or ends up in our ecosystems. This results in an estimated USD 80-120 billion worth of plastic material value that is lost to the economy each year.

Statistics of plastic packaging waste

Almost half of the plastic in the world is created by the packaging sector. According to a KPMG report, if the growth of plastic production continues at the current rate, the plastic industry could account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption by 2050. Almost a third of all plastic packaging leaks out of collecting and sorting systems and ends up in the soil and the ocean. Moreover, plastic degrades into fine nano-sized particles that are harmful to animals and stay in food chains. However, cutting out the usages of plastic completely is not as easy as we think.

Uses of plastic and why we cannot simply cut out plastic

  • Food Preservation- One of the major uses of plastic packaging is to preserve food. Research of FAO shows that plastic is necessary to prevent food waste; roughly one third, or 1.3 billion tonnes, of the food produced for human consumption, gets lost or wasted every year. In order to distribute food safely over long distances plastic packaging is an inevitable item and it also reduces food waste by keeping the food fresh for longer and also stand against bacteria.

  • Water Bottles- Plastic water bottles, sold stores all over the world are known as single-use-plastics the ones most notorious for finding themselves in our ecosystem and waterways. We know that it is harmful for our environment and we can think about switching to glass rather than using plastics. It may seem like a good idea at first. Still, when we consider the logistics of it, it comes to light that it is not a practical and useful solution at all. The cost of producing glass containers are much higher than plastics and to buy water of glass bottle is not reasonable to afford for consumers of all the countries of the world. Besides, glass bottles have many other drawbacks comparing to plastic bottles.

So what should we do instead?

We can focus on less important plastic products like plastic bags. Research shows that 75% of consumers supported a plastic bag ban, a bag fee, or both. In the United States, states such as California and Hawaii, and cities such as Seattle, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. have already adopted either plastic bag bans or fees to discourage single-use plastic consumption. The best way to reduce the uses of plastic bag is to make them more expensive, or it can be made less available, and as a result, it will be less convenient for people to get them.

Sources:

  1. https://earth.org/why-we-cant-quit-plastic-waste/

  2. https://community.materialtrader.com/why-we-cant-just-stop-using-plastic/#:~:text=This%20results%20in%20an%20estimated,the%20loss%20of%20economic%20value

  3. https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2018/07/29/plastic-waste-pollution-people-cant-resits/818703002/


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