Single use plastics are a major environmental impact. Even small amounts of them have a big impact. A recent Greenpeace study found that beaches and coastlines were littered with hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic. The researchers tracked down the sources of the pollution and found that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were the most common culprits. The beverage giants are responsible for three million tons of plastic packaging each year and produce about 200,000 plastic bottles every minute.
Reusable products have lower environmental impacts than single-use plastics
There are many environmental benefits to using reusable products instead of single-use plastics. For starters, reusable products can be reused many times. In addition, many of them can be cleaned and refilled. This way, they have a much lower environmental impact than single-use plastics. However, the environmental impact of reusable products is dependent on how the products are used.
Plastics are a convenient method for packaging, but they are also harmful to the environment. Almost half of the plastic packaging in the world is disposed of in landfills, and only 14% of this waste is recycled. In addition to contaminating the environment, many products containing plastic end up in the wrong hands. The World Economic Forum estimates that about half of the plastic that is recycled worldwide is burned. Most of the reclaimed plastics end up in developing countries, where there are a lack of waste management facilities. Biodegradable plastics are also problematic for the environment because they contain up to 25% petroleum-based plastics. Moreover, very few jurisdictions have the industrial composting equipment necessary to compost these products. Therefore, it is imperative to reduce consumption of single-use plastics.
Compostable and degradable plastics
While some types of plastics can be recycled, the majority end up in landfills, where they pollute waterways, lakes, and oceans. In addition, they also clog up forests and soils. A new term has emerged for this phenomenon: ‘white pollution’.
Compostable and degradable plastics are important because they have the ability to decompose and be reused. However, composting may only be possible when the plastic products are in an industrial composting facility. While bioplastics are an excellent option, they may not be appropriate for every product. Some bioplastics may interact with standard plastic recycling processes, increasing rejection rates. Moreover, their plant-derived sugars or starches could have negative impacts on food prices.
Unfortunately, plastic pollution is becoming a global issue. The impact of single use plastic is so severe that it is becoming increasingly difficult for waste management systems to cope with the amount of waste. Fortunately, this crisis is a chance to make progress. As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has stated, the global community should use the pandemic as an opportunity to invest in sustainable technologies and policies.
Reducing oil usage
Reducing oil usage is of paramount importance, and there are many different ways to do so. One way is through recycling and other methods such as reusing plastic bottles. This is important because it conserves oil and reduces the impact of the oil we use. Another way is through a global campaign against single use plastics. Some estimates suggest that this campaign could reduce oil demand by more than electric cars will in 20 years.
Oil companies have a large responsibility for the plastic pollution crisis we are facing. Approximately 55% of the world’s single-use plastic comes from just 20 companies. In a recent citizen-led plastic brand audit, which took place in 45 countries, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, Nestle, and Unilever were flagged for the amount of plastic they contribute to the world’s landfills.
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions
Single-use plastics are a major problem across the world, as they are highly harmful to the environment and our health. They are also a key contributor to climate change. They place convenience above durability and repeated use, which is the root cause of our throw-away society. Every year, over 300 million tons of plastic is produced around the world – about half of which is single-use plastic. These plastics do not decompose and instead break down into small particles known as microplastics. They pose a significant threat to wildlife and are very difficult to clean up.
Single-use plastic is made from fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, which contribute to global climate change. In order to create plastic, companies must first extract these fuels, which adds up to 850 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually to the atmosphere. This process involves drilling horizontally and injecting chemicals, sand, and water into a rock layer, which then breaks up. Once extracted, oil and gas are transported to a final destination through pipelines and trucks, and this process is also carbon intensive. According to the CIEL report, this process alone contributes to 12.5 to 13.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year.
Reducing waste disposal
Single-use plastics are a large part of solid waste. Most of them do not decompose in landfills, but break down into smaller pieces called microplastics in the ocean. In 2008, the United States alone generated 33.6 million tons of plastic waste. Of this, 6.5% was recycled, 8.3% was burnt, and 86% was landfilled. Clearly, reducing single-use plastic wastes is of utmost importance.
In addition to reducing waste, this practice also preserves resources by reducing the need to produce new goods. In addition, it minimizes pollution caused by manufacturing wastes and fossil fuel-powered transportation. It also reduces the amount of material that is sent to landfills and resource recovery facilities.