Blog Post

Living In A Plastic World

Living In A Plastic World – What Lies In The Future For Plastic

 

Plastics in all forms is found at every level of society and in every industry.  Due to the negative environmental impact of plastic – especially single use plastics – many governments and much of the public are very skeptical of many consumer plastic items. The challenge of this present day is to carve a circular path for plastics that will align with natural processes, use resources efficiently and create a sustainable economy.

There have been many pledges made by big corporations – including Coca-Cola, Walmart and Starbucks – to reduce the amount of plastic used in their products. However, it will prove difficult for the economy of the world to totally stop the use of plastics. And plastics definitely hold many advantages over alternative packaging options. The way forward is surely in finding innovative ways to recycle plastics rather than do away with them entirely.

Many large hotel chains are also trying to reduce their usage of single use plastics. MGM China intended to stop using all single use plastics in its restaurants by 2019. Marriot and InterContinental have stopped the use of small plastic shampoo and body wash bottles that they provide for their guests. They have replaced the bottles with dispensers for the soap products.

 

PET

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is the most common plastic to be recycled. It is most often recycled into plastic bottles. About 35% of PET bottles are currently recycled and turned into new bottles with hopes that this number will rise to 60% by 2030.

 

Pollution

Stricter regulations concerning the impact of plastics on the environment have been made in many countries. For example, some American cities have stopped the use of single use plastic straws and eating utensils.

 

Recycling

In order for there to be an incentive for countries to recycle plastic, the costs of recycling have to be kept lower than manufacturing new plastic materials. British Petroleum (BP) have opened plants that will research new methods of recycling various types of PET that are not able to be recycled currently. This would include coloured bottles and cafeteria trays.

The demand for plastic is always increasing and this will drive the innovation in recycling.

Currently only around 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling. The rest ends up in landfills or is leaked in the ocean. By 2050 it is estimated that, by weight, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. A scary thought. Not only is this loss of plastic detrimental to the environment it is also extremely wasteful in terms of cost.  Ninety five percent of the value of plastic packaging is lost to the economy – this is roughly around $100 billion.

 

After Use

An “effective after-use plastics economy” needs to be created. This will capture that material which would otherwise be lost and also increase resource efficiency and create an economic incentive to stop leakage of materials from the collection systems. The place to start this initiative is with municipal waste collection and recycling programs.

 

 

 

 

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