We are sure that by now you have been at one time or another involved in a conversation revolving around the over-use, over-production, or over-opinionated people when it comes to plastic. In the last decade, due to its environmentally damaging attributes, plastic has become a hot topic of conversation, and this is not something that is going to change anytime soon.
Recently, as people have become more aware of the environmental implications imposed by plastic, especially single use plastics, a new consciously led lifestyle has arisen; that to avoid plastic whenever possible. In today’s fast-paced and convenient society, single use plastics are thriving, but unfortunately this means the opposite for our environment, and people are now starting to take action. We want to start this blog off by referring to its title; that efforts to avoid plastic are not just a fad, but have already become a modern-day necessity. Furthermore, we believe these efforts will continue to become more forcefully encouraged as environmental repercussions continue to evolve.
The reason why plastic is such a tremendous problem in the world today is because it does not biodegrade; plastic will only break down into smaller and smaller plastic particles. This is a tremendous problem since the smaller particles can often be more harmful than larger plastics as they are very easily integrated into the ecosystem and passed up through various food chains. Furthermore, plastic is currently an over-produced commodity, used to manufacture a horde of items that are not necessary; of these include a myriad of unsustainable single-use plastics. As single-use plastics continue to dominate the plastic industry, packaging is now the largest plastic market globally.
Plastic started making its debut appearances in the 1950s during the Industrial Revolution. The rise of oil and gas were simultaneous with the rise of single use plastics, as plastic is readily made from oil and gas, yielding high quantities at low costs. Bio-based plastics, surprisingly enough, are nothing of the new. In fact, prior to the Industrial Revolution, in 1941, Ford had manufactured the first ever “soybean car” with a shell of hard plastic made from soybean fiber. As it turns out, bio-based plastics did not last long as they were not nearly as cost effective and efficient as petroleum based plastics. Nonetheless, in today’s world, it is interesting to note how we have come full circle, with environmental companies now spending tons of money on R&D for new biopolymers for their products. It is unfortunate however, that according to experts, bioplastics may not be much more beneficial than conventional plastics as they may not biodegrade efficiently and their production actually diverts crops from food.
To touch on a couple numbers, the annual global production of plastic resins continues to exponentially excel, from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 400 million tonnes in 2015; and these numbers have shown no sign of halting. Putting this into perspective, half the plastic that has ever existed has been made in the past 13 years. With this, researchers have discovered that 79% of plastic manufactured since the plastic revolution in the 1950s is still sitting in landfills or worse, the natural environment. From the rest, 12% has been incinerated, and just 9% recycled. An unfortunate side note to add here is that even with the 9% recycled, plastic has a limited ability to be recycled as it loses its quality each time it is recycled. Thus, once recycled once, a plastic most often is considered normal trash. Adding to this, economic forces also contribute a large role to the low percentage of recycled plastic, since making virgin plastic is often much cheaper than recycling, especially when it comes to important specifications such as durability and pliability etc. To be quite frank, plastic recycling is a perceived belief by most single use plastic users.
Now, touching back on our stats, if you think about the amount of plastic you use daily, then multiply this by 8 billion people in the world who use plastic, that equals out to a whole lot of plastic sitting on our poor Mother Earth’s lap. According to scientists, to be more exact, this number is 6400 million metric tons. What’s more is that due to this disastrous plastic pollution, researchers have now found plastic to be an integrated material of our natural environment. A new stone on a beach in Hawaii was discovered and termed a “plastiglomerate” as the constituents were sand, organic debris, and volcanic rock all swirled together with melted plastic.
With the amount of plastic made every year continuing to soar, the future for sustainability is not looking good. The largest issue right now is that we are not able to manage the plastic we produce globally and it is already out of control. Since we do not have an industry that currently supports a solution for this plastic pandemic, action is left to the consumer to shop responsibly. It's hard to believe that there are people alive today that remember a world without plastic, which makes us truly realize how much plastic has grown over the last century. Today, it's almost impossible to open your eyes, wherever you are, and to look around you without spotting some form of plastic. Thus, we need to wean ourselves off of plastic if we don't want to end up in a world that is smothered in it. If consumers act in numbers and purchase less plastic, manufacturers will stop making so much, it is really that simple.
At the end of the day, we need to trade in some unrequired conveniences for a clean and healthy planet.
- Architect’s Daughter