The plastics issue
The most famous, widespread and used material in the world is certainly plastic. As an old National Geographic article writes “We created plastic, we are addicted to it. Now we are drowning in it”.
Just stop for a second and look around, wherever we are, almost all the things around us are made of plastic, but how did we get to this point?
That’s the focus of this article on Seeders Media, where we constantly increase our audience’s awareness on sustainability and circular economy practices.
The first plastic made from fossil fuels was invented a little over a hundred years ago, becoming in common use after the Second World War, with its production taking off around 1950. Today we are left with 9.2 billion tons of material to manage. Of these, 6.3 billion tons become waste that will never reach a separate collection bin.
It is estimated that by 2050 the weight of plastics present in seas will be greater than the one of fishes. Every year from 5 to 13 tons of plastic end up in the oceans, reaching the total figure of about 150 million tons to date.
These numbers lead us to unprecedented environmental impacts capable of completely destroying the environment around us.
Environmental and social consequences
Animals can easily get entangled or ingest the plastic, which is widespread both on land and in the oceans, degrading their habitat and severely exposing the various forms of life to the chemicals of this material. Attention, because when we talk about life forms we also refer to us human beings. Only a small amount of the plastic we buy and throw away every day is recycled, decomposing into microplastics and ending up in the diet of the fish, the same ones we buy at the supermarket, which are in turn packed in plastic wrappers. But that’s not all, we must understand that our health is also threatened when we read that recycling 1 million tons of plastic is equivalent, in terms of CO2 emissions, to taking 1 million cars off the road.
Even at an economic level we are all suffering the consequences of this environmental disaster, the estimated cost of marine litter alone varies between 300 and 700 million euros.
A final fact concerns climate change. Plastic contributes dramatically to the global emission of pollutants, once dispersed in the environment it continues to produce greenhouse gases. In 2019 alone, the production, incineration and disposal of this material added more than 850 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. An amount equal to the pollution of 189 new coal plants.
Reflections and solutions
Given all these problems that plastic is creating for us, it does not mean that we must demonize it, we must not identify an enemy to be killed in this efficient material, we just have to learn to manage it better. The basic problem is not the plastic itself, but the materials with which we produce it. Better plastics should be produced, for example, with biodegradable nylon, a new formula developed by the Rhodia-Solvay Group, which makes it possible to make garments quickly decomposable when they are discarded and taken to landfills. Or we could use plastics made with ECONYL®, a synthetic textile fiber derived from the regeneration of recycled plastic polymers, created thanks to the recycling of fishing nets abandoned in the oceans, domestic carpets, industrial plastic waste, and fabric scraps used by industry.
What we can do individually is to minimize the use of plastic materials such as bottles, glasses, cutlery etc … by choosing alternative materials for the same objects, or by purchasing items made with bioplastics.
At Seeders Capital we bring innovative solutions for waste management thanks to our Zero Waste Zones, a strategy which is useful both for municipalities and companies.
Plastic is an important partner which follow us every day in our activities, so we must learn to use it carefully, choosing the right materials, it all depends on us.