Current use of plastic
– Polyethylene (HDPE) (high density, low density, linear low density, etc.): It is used to create various products such as: bags, cling wrap, flexible bottles, toys, tubes, juice and milk containers, etc.
– Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): It is mostly used in specific fields such as construction and medicine. In the manufacture of flexible plastics for medical devices, and to cover floors, ceilings, or to insulate electrical cables.
– Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): This variant is mainly used for bottled liquids such as soft drinks, milk, juices, chemicals, etc. It is one of the most popular plastics at international level.
On the other hand, containment measures have drastically reduced the demand for oil, pushing oil prices to historic lows. As a result, the cost of producing virgin plastics can be lower than that of recycled materials.
“The impacts of this pandemic have been devastating (on the fight against plastic) and it’s going to take us a very, very long time to really understand its long-term consequences,” said Juliano Calil, lead author of the report, during its launch.
The impacts of the global closure have also been severe for the most vulnerable waste pickers. In Manila, the capital of the Philippines, these people can no longer sell recyclables, as most scrap yards and other businesses that buy them have been closed for months.
From oil extraction to plastic disposal, there are three main external impacts: ecosystem degradation due to leakage, especially in the marine environment; emissions of fossil fuels and toxic substances from the production and incineration of disposed materials; and impacts on health and the environment (including loss of biodiversity).
Types of plastics
Is it possible to conceive of a future without plastic? Some predict that the future depletion of fossil fuels will force this, so it will be necessary to develop substitute materials. But even in this case, the end of plastic would not mean its disappearance from the Earth, due to the very slow degradation of these polymers, so it would also be necessary to address decontamination measures. This is the picture of efforts towards the goal of achieving a plastic-free planet.
But it is not easy; synthetic resins are present, in one way or another, in most of what we buy, consume and discard. The reason is that petroleum yields polymers with enormous versatility and very diverse properties, and making the reverse journey to naturally occurring materials does not seem a universal solution. Monitoring and reducing the use of plastics is the mission of organizations such as the Plastic Disclosure Project. It bases its objectives on its motto of the four “R’s”: reuse, reduce, reuse and recycle.
Where plastic comes from
The problem is that these microscopic pieces, being so tiny, are entering the food chain without us even realizing it. This is one of the reasons why plastic pollution on land is higher than in the seas (between 4 and 23 times more). Therefore, land-based pollution is one of the most common and dangerous.
There are up to 5 islands of garbage in the oceans. Sea pollution is one of the most serious, as these accumulations of garbage not only remain in the ocean, but also reach the coasts, contaminating land areas, living beings, etc.
But the problem is not only the garbage islands or places in the sea where it is very visible that there is plastic, but it is confirmed that microplastics have been found everywhere in the ocean where they have been searched, from the deepest seabed to the Arctic ice.
Plastic air pollution is something that many of us are not aware of, but the truth is that it affects our health without us even realizing it. The manufacturing itself releases a variety of toxins into the air, but in addition to this, many of the world’s plastics are burned, releasing many other toxic components that cause health problems.