When did plastic become a problem?

Fritz klatte

If the garbage truck passes by the block we apparently dispose of the package individually, although it is still a collective problem. But what happens where there is no municipal collection service? It is stored, buried or burned… in any case, it pollutes and affects people, animals and ecosystems in many ways.

Although PET is not considered a hazardous material, excessive consumption of products packaged in PET containers can cause long-term respiratory and skin problems due to the action of “phthalates”, chemical compounds added to make the plastic more flexible and durable, which can be easily released, for example, at high temperatures. When released into the liquid and ingested, these particles accumulate inside the body.

It should be remembered that most of the high biodiversity areas are surrounded by rural populations, far from the municipalities. In most of them there is no garbage collection service, although even in the most remote areas, delivery trucks from companies that sell bottled beverages (and many other packaged products) arrive and, of course, they are not responsible for the waste they generate. What do the communities do with the PET? They “save” it, bury it or burn it. As we have seen, any option is a problem.

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The plastic problem

The first plastics, such as Bakelite, were invented in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until after World War II that the mass production and use of all kinds of plastic materials began. How much have we produced since then, and where has it gone?

The answer has just been provided by a team of scientists from the University of Georgia, the University of California and the Sea Education Association who have conducted the first global analysis of the production and fate of all plastics produced by man throughout history.

The study has been published (July 19) in the journal Science Advances and concludes that, as of 2015, some 8.3 billion tons of plastic had been generated. This figure is equivalent to the weight of a million Eiffel Towers. If we make the relationship with the world population, which in 2017 was estimated at 7.5 billion people, it would correspond to about 1,100 kilos of plastic for each inhabitant of the planet.

The qualities of plastic, which is impermeable to water and can be hard or soft, rigid or flexible, opaque or transparent and molded in sheets or fibers have made it a basic material for consumer society. However, its peculiarities make its management a major environmental challenge. The vast majority of the monomers used to make plastic, such as ethylene and propylene, are obtained from fossil hydrocarbons and petroleum derivatives, making it a non-renewable material.

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How much plastic is thrown away each year

CONSERVATION ACTION The problem of plastic pollution is very serious and requires further study. Immediate action is also required such as:- Reduction of the use of plastic as packaging, which is normally discarded immediately. Re-use of plastics should be promoted.  – Plastic packages and bags should display a warning about the dangers of plastic pollution and the consumer should be encouraged to use their own bags and recycled paper bags.

Plastic

Thanks to these extraordinary properties, plastic is omnipresent in our daily lives. The problem is that it is so ubiquitous that we can find traces of it either in the most remote corners of the planet, such as the summit of Mount Everest, or in some of the most disturbing: our own gut.

However, with consumer awareness of the real economic and global cost of plastic, manufacturers can no longer take refuge in such a limited aspect as its economic value. They use too much plastic and they know it.

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With such economic benefits, what’s wrong with producing plastic? The main drawback arises when it becomes waste: it is estimated that consumers throw away $100 billion worth of single-use plastic products every year. Take plastic cutlery, for example: many are used for a few minutes and then thrown away, ending up in landfills. The proportion of recycled plastic is still less than 9% of global production. The rest is at best incinerated or dumped in landfills. Plastic pollution is having a detrimental effect on the natural environment, especially the oceans.