The most famous, widespread and used material in the world, plastic. As an old National Geographic article writes “We created plastic, we are addicted to it. Now we are drowning in it”.
That’s why we want to dedicate an article on our Seeders Media, to tackle and analyze the problem.
Just stop for a second and look around, wherever we are, almost all the objects around us are made of plastic, but how did we get to this point?
The first plastic made from fossil fuels was invented a little over a hundred years ago, becoming commonplace 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 bin1.
It is estimated that by 2050 the weight of plastics present in the seas will be greater than that of fish. Every year from 5 to 13 tons of plastic ends up in the oceans, reaching a total of about 150 million tons to date.
These numbers lead us to unprecedented environmental impacts capable of completely destroying the environment around us.
Animals can easily become entangled or ingest plastic, which is widespread both on land and in the oceans, degrading their habitat and severely exposing different forms of life to the chemicals of this material. Attention, because when we talk about forms of life 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 they 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.
This is not a problem that concerns the marine part, but the whole environment that surrounds us: the data provided by the “Nevica Plastica” study, testify that every year on the highest peaks in Italy 200 million particles fall, of which 80 millions are microplastics2.
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 euros3.
One last fact concerning climate change. Plastic contributes dramatically to the global emission of pollutants, once dispersed into 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 define in this very efficient material an enemy to be killed, 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 made up, for example, of 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 from using plastics made with ECONY®, a synthetic textile fiber derived from the regeneration of recycled plastic polymers, thanks to the recycling of fishing nets abandoned in the oceans, domestic carpets, industrial plastic waste, and fabric scraps used in the textile industry.
Also, waste management can be stanched by Air Cleaning systems and new technologies, like the ones we offer at Seeders with our Clean Air Zones.
What we can do individually is to minimize the use of plastic materials such as bottles, glasses, cutlery etc … choose alternative materials for the same objects, or by purchasing items made with bioplastics.
Plastic accompanies us every day in our activities, so we learn to use it with caution and to choose the right materials, it all depends on us.