What are the Problems of Plastics – Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

illustration of: The waste plastic problem, and ways to reduce plastic waste.We will explain what are the problems of plastics and some of the ways to reduce plastic waste. The subject has become a very hot one since a BBC Documentary about the World’s Ocean, showed distressing footage of a mother whale who was continuing to try to suckle a baby watch this video below), which it is thought was killed by ingesting floating ocean plastic. That footage alone has touched the world. At last, there has been some much needed action to try to solve the rapidly accelerating problem of plastic litter which stays around for a very long time, it doesn’t rot away, and just keeps on accumulating.

Worse still small plastic particles hardly large enough to see, are being eaten by small fish and animals, they are in-turn eaten by larger species, and eventually are eaten by you and I. Heaven knows what that will do to human health, as well as the health of all the smaller creatures which eat waste plastic, which of course, may be a cancer-inducing material as well.

The Problems of Plastics

Two big problems with plastics, which until now were thought to be there biggest assets, as materials for everyday use:

  1. Plastics are generally lighter or very close to the density of water. When they were invented this was seen as a great advantage because the goods made with them were light and easy to lift and transport, as a result. Unfortunately, this fact also means that unlike heavier materials they do not remain where they are discarded. instead natural forces, especially floods and soil erosion lift and transport discarded waste plastics and ultimately they end up in the world’s oceans.
  2. Plastics are nearly all made from fossil fuel oils and they are not susceptible to the usual processes of decay. Instead, they tend to get broken up and worn down into ever smaller particles, and it is these particles which are eaten mistakenly when thought to be food by a host of living creatures.

With hindsight, you might say that this outcome would have been obvious to scientists and businesses making plastics since the day it was invented. clearly, it was not. This problem with plastics is a frightening fact in itself. That mankind could have been so blind to this massive hazard does not give this author any real faith that other man-made disasters of a similar order of magnitude are not lurking to be discovered in the years ahead.

What are the Facts Re: Problems with Plastics – and are there Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste?

We’re Now At A Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute – 91% Of Which Are Not Recycled via A Million Per Minute

Few inventions in modern history have been as successful as plastic. The problem with plastics is that it is now everywhere. It’s in vehicles and building materials and most of our electronic devices. We wrap stuff in it and even wear it.

Now a research team has tallied up how much plastic has been produced and where much of it has gone. Turns out, it’s literally almost everywhere, and a massive 91% of it is not recycled globally.

Roland Geyer, an industrial ecologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, says no one had tallied how much plastic people have manufactured since its invention. When he did it, he was shocked at what he found. “Eight point three billion metric tons of plastics produced so far. That’s just really a staggering amount.”

He did some calculations to understand that number. “And it turned out that it can cover an area the size of Argentina,” he says, “which is the eighth-largest country in the world.” “Ankle deep!”

So, is that a problem with plastics? Well, for one thing, Geyer, says, “Virtually all the plastic we ever made is non-degradable. (It) will be with us for hundreds of years.” Much of it ends up in the soil, in smaller particles, or in the ocean, or in our water. via PlasticEverywhere

Plastic bottles are a recycling disaster. Coca-Cola should have known better

The Coca-Cola Company produced more than 100bn plastic bottles in 2016, Greenpeace claimed last month. This is troubling news, considering how much of the waste ends up outside plastic recycling systems. Separately it has been estimated that, on current trends, by 2050 the plastic in our oceans may weigh more than all the fish.

In this debate about waste, Coca-Cola has long been the target of environmentalists. After all, it has a massive ecological footprint that few companies can match – and packaging is just part of the story. Beyond the billions of plastic bottles, Coke places heavy demands on the Earth. As early as the 1920s, the company boasted that it was the largest consumer of sugar cane on the planet. It also soon claimed to be the world’s biggest buyer of processed caffeine. Today, at its bottling plants it uses more than 300bn litres of water a year. Its total water footprint, needed to grow sugar cane and all the other ingredients, is 100 times greater.

Considering this appetite for natural resources, it’s easy to understand why organisations such as Greenpeace have seen Coca-Cola as an ecological bogeyman. But hidden in the company’s history are some useful lessons. …

Coca-Cola claims its packaging is “recyclable”. Yes, plastic containers can be recycled, but current systems of reclamation are failing to capture the vast majority of this waste, largely because there are few fiscal incentives.

Coca-Cola should have known this would be the outcome. In the early 20th century, industry journals chastised soft drink bottlers that did not put deposits on their returnable bottles. In 1905, for example, the Southern Carbonator and Bottler proclaimed: “The only sane, logical and lasting solution of the bottle question is the deposit system.”

Roughly 80% of Coca-Cola bottlers surveyed in 1929 had deposit systems in place, and studies of that period showed that bottles did dozens of trips back and forth between consumer and distributor. This was a re-use system that truly reclaimed natural resources, and private industry was its biggest promoter.

How did this system stack up against the alternatives, considering the full ecological impact of reclaiming returnable glass bottles, including washing them? In 1969 Coca-Cola attempted to answer that question by asking the Midwest Research Institute to conduct a life-cycle analysis of packaging. The firm looked at various types of throwaway containers, and compared them with returnable glass bottles on almost every measure: energy expenditure, waste generation, water pollution, air emissions and more.

This study, which the investigators reproduced for the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1974, concluded that no throwaway “container will be improved to match or surpass that of [the 10-trip returnable glass bottle] in the near future”.

Coca-Cola nevertheless placed its future in the plastic bottle. Paul Austin, then company president, explained this was because Coca-Cola believed recycling systems would allow the company to reclaim much of the plastic it used.

The beauty of history is that we can look back and see if Austin’s bet paid off. Using the US as a case study, the message is clear: failure to offer financial incentives has resulted in a wasteful recycling system. Over 25 years since kerbside recycling began, 70% of plastic containers are never reclaimed. Just 30% end up being recycled.

The good news is that Coca-Cola is considering changing course. Recently, the company announced it would consider approving a deposit system in Scotland. If this happens, Scotland will probably see elevated recycling rates, much like Germany and other nations that have passed measures to put a price on pollution. via recycling disaster

However, the world is belatedly waking up to the plastics problem and moves are getting underway to solve the plastics problem. it is going to be a massive challenge, and it is essential it is done before it kill all ocean life stone-dead…

The rest of this article is devoted to ways to reduce plastic waste which are now in prospect to help solve the threat of overwhelming plastics pollution. Don’t worry, we will need everyone of these ideas, to bear fruit to solve this, and many more besides:

1 – Every Single Piece Of Plastic Packaging In The EU will be Reusable or Recyclable By 2030

Moves are in progress to ensure that Every Single Piece Of Plastic Packaging In The EU will be Reusable or Recyclable By 2030. Its the EU’s best of the planned ways to reduce plastic waste… via Recyclable2030

2 – Adidas Trainers to be Made from Recycled Ocean Plastic

2 -Some new Adidas Trainers will be made from recycled ocean plastic, and they’re the most comfortable running sneakers I’ve tried… One of the better ways to reduce plastic waste. via Adidasrecycledocean

3 – Man builds 25 plastic bottle homes for refugees in Algeria

The plastic bottle homes can better withstand storms than adobe, mudbrick, or tent homes, and are water resistant. The homes have thick walls, and partnered with their circular shape, stand up better to sandstorms. Breica built the first bottle home for his grandmother, who was hurt while being carried to a community center to hunker down during a sandstorm. Working with UNHCR, Breica has built 25 homes so far. via Extraordinaryman

4 – New Catalyst Could Help Recycle Carbon Dioxide Into Plastic

In a study that sounds like modern-day alchemy, scientists have finely tuned an important chemical reaction that could help us recycle carbon dioxide into plastic.

As reported in the new journal Nature Catalysis, scientists at the University of Toronto have been using a new technique that helps to pinpoint the precise conditions that convert carbon dioxide to ethylene in the most efficient ways to reduce plastic waste possible. Ethylene can then be processed to make polyethylene, the plastic most commonly used to make plastic bags, packaging, toys, and plastic bottles.

Although the world is gradually weaning itself off its plastic addiction, this method could help divert greenhouse gases from the atmosphere while providing a greener way to produce plastic in the first place.

“I think the future will be filled with technologies that make value out of waste. It’s exciting because we are working towards developing new and sustainable ways to ways to reduce plastic waste, and meet the energy demands of the future,” Phil De Luna, PhD student and lead researcher, said in a statement. via NewCatalyst

Conclusion to What are the Problems of Plastics – Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste

But, plastic is certainly not the only modern product which presents a danger if it is not disposed of responsibly. There are many other materials which society will have to find a way to recycle if the globe is not to become one large landfill site, and run-out of new materials completely!

This lead us to thinking that we should finish off this article with informing our readers which countries are the best at recycling. After-all the ultimate aim must be to recycle all but a small amount of everything we make. This idea is hugely popular and it is known as the zero-waste culture, and the “circular economy”. This is all explained in the World Recycling Statistics Top Recycling Countries 2018 List, where the  Environmental Engineering Consultant company, IPPTS Associates, announced their “Top 5 List of Countries with the highest recycling rates globally using world statistics and waste management technology”.

Please comment on this article and give us your views. Do you agree that waste plastic is as big a problem as we have indicated here?