Plastic surrounds us ubiquitously and excessively every day and unfortunately, combined with a lack of recycling, it creates a major problem for the planet. Much of the sorted waste was never recycled, ending up in landfills where it will decompose into tiny microplastics for hundreds of years. Of the 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, almost 75% remained, because recycling was expensive and often not worthwhile. Production was therefore often much cheaper in comparison. The market created conditions where it was much easier to let plastic lie fallow in landfill and make new plastic, especially in the poorer countries of Asia and Africa, but let's be honest, not just there... We, the human population, haven't really thought this through…
And our daily "recycling ethic"? Catastrophic! Every day you can see discarded plastic packaging or cups on the sidewalk, in the woods, in the meadow, which then make their way into the rivers, seas and oceans, gradually creating huge garbage patches that cover millions of square kilometers. One of the most famous is the patch in Pacific, which is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It covers an area of 1.6 million kilometers, which is triple size of France!
This is the so-called photodegradation of plastics on a large scale, i.e. their disintegration into smaller pieces and micro-particles, which gradually, but surely, get into the food chain of animals. And consequently into the tissues of a person, if you feel that you are not concerned. Currently, it has been identified more than 200 species of animals including turtles, dolphins, whales and seabirds that consume plastic. Increasingly, we are seeing images of animals trapped in plastic, with stomachs full of plastic bags and other horrific visuals. The microplastics that get deposited in the human body can be the cause of various health problems and inflammation. At worst, they pose a danger in the form of negative effects on reproductive organs and the possible development of cancer. Although plastics are considered inert and should not pose a danger to humans, residual substances or substances that microplastics are able to bind to are a problem.
So what now? Fortunately, the world, individual countries are starting to deal with it and gradually coming up with bans and new directives affecting or banning the production and use of single-use plastics. Such as:
- disposable plastic cutlery (forks, knives, spoons, chopsticks),
- disposable plastic plates,
- plastic cotton buds,
- plastic straws,
- plastic balloon sticks,
- oxo-degradable plastic products, disposable plastic food containers (e.g. fast food packaging) and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.
What should we do with it now? It is absolutely clear that plastics are there and in some cases cannot be replaced. For now, at least. Moreover, plastics do not always have to be completely condemned. For example, if you are making a product, or a plastic part of a product, that will be used multiple times and ideally for several years (until it breaks down :-)), it's not as bad as a single-use bag. And that's a good point to think about. Whenever we do anything with plastic, it's always good to ask ourselves, do I really need this? Do I really need a bag for two apples?
And how do you feel about that? Have you changed your buying behaviour