Plastic may be the “miracle material” that has made our modern lives considerably easier, but it is also the very thing that damages the world we live in.
In fact, the very first plastics invented in the late 19th century are still around to this day. Our dependence on this non-degradable synthetic material will very well be our downfall, which is why we need to address this problem immediately and effectively. And it starts by equipping ourselves with the knowledge on what exactly we are dealing with.
Facts about Plastic Pollution
The National Geographic states that out of 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic, about 6.9 billion tonnes have become –6.3 billion tonnes of which never even made it to a recycling bin. Over the last five decades, our global plastic consumption has drastically increased: from 16.5 million tonnes in 1964 to about 343 million tonnes in 2014, experts have predicted that this number will most likely double by the year 2036.
By 2050, the amount of plastic in landfills alone will be about 35,000 times more than the weight of the Empire State Building, which sits at 365,000 tonnes. There is no accounting for the amount scattered everywhere else, clogging our lands and poisoning our waters.
So why exactly does plastic waste only increase year after year? According to Roland Geyer, the lead author on the study of the global analysis of all plastics ever made: “It’s not just that we make a lot, it’s that we also make more, year after year.” And as plastic does not deteriorate, this means that every new waste we generate literally only piles of the existing problem.
What can we do about this, then?
Measures Taken to Control Plastic Pollution
Engineers and those who specialise in industrial ecology, much like Geyer, are looking for ways around these obstacles. For example, Jenna Jambeck, alongside her colleagues at the University of Georgia’s New Materials Institute, are utilising polymers that are synthesised from eco-friendlier microbes to replace plastic packaging. Other studies have also found algae to be a viable source of alternative packaging materials, while glass, grape wastes, or even milk proteins are also in the running.
There are also plastic recycling companies, such as Polymateria, that synthetically accelerate the biodegrading process of plastic. Their goal is to harmonise plastics with the biosphere through the development of certain chemical additives that would make plastic more environmentally-safe.
Communities and governments are also taking their own decisive steps, where milkmen are making a comeback after several decades as people ditch plastic milk cartons for the traditional, and safer, glass ones.
What Happens If We Don’t Take Action Now?
If we continue to depend on plastic-based products, we may find ourselves literally drowning in it in the next couple of years. Our current methods have proven ineffective, and we need to use a different tactic.
Landfills is a classic example; these are solid waste facilities where food waste, glass, paper, and plastic that could otherwise be composted are buried–and simply kept. Plastics don’t begin to degrade until about 100 years, so landfills have become nothing more than massive garbage cans.
Of course, throwing them into the ocean is not an alternative as it harms the safety of marine life. Keep in mind that plastic contains toxic chemicals that alter the composition of water. As a result, it threatens the health and safety of the aquatic ecosystem.
The plastic that we make and use also contaminate the air we breathe. Particulate matter, or the miniscule solid or liquid particles suspended midair, are at a record high, meaning our every inhale is riddled with dirt and harmful substances. In this case, it is no exaggeration to say that breathing alone can have fatal consequences.
Practising the Proper Plastic Disposal
It’s about time we wake up to this problem. As regular citizens, there are plenty of steps to take to help reduce your plastic waste production. Ditch products that in single-use plastic packaging. Bring your own containers and utensils. Buy in bulk whenever possible. Recycle what you can. And above all, be mindful of how much plastic you’re actually using, and spread the awareness to everyone you can.
And if you’re a business whose operations deal with the utilisation of plastic materials, we can help you reduce its environmental impact. By talking to LKM Recycling, you may find other ways to dispose of your plastic trash. With our help, we can provide you with so many other possible techniques that are both legal and ethical. Give us a call today at 01795 439393 and start your eco-friendly journey!