It is true that plastic is today recognized as one of the greatest environmental issues in terms of pollution. However, its use remains useful and necessary in many fields such as medicine for instance. Our society is dependent on it and therefore its total elimination cannot be the solution to end plastic pollution. Understanding its necessity will enable us to find suitable solutions to stem its negative impact on our planet.
Understanding the plastic phenomenon
Plastic is a material. More specifically, a mixture containing a base material capable of being molded and worked to create objects or elements of objects. Plastic is everywhere, one just have to look around. However, if the current trend of plastic production remains on the rise and no more effort is made to recycle it, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050.
Plastic appeared in the 19th century. Before that, durable materials such as bronze, wood, or leather were used. Plastic allowed technical, technological, and even environmental progress. Derived from coal and oil, plastic has many advantages, often incomparable, and this has led to undeniable progress in chemistry in particular. Wanting to completely eliminate plastic from our lives would be like stepping two centuries back.
Plastic is everywhere
We find plastic in the automotive industry, in buildings, in the medical field, or in the food industry indeed. It is at the same time windscreen wipers, PVC windows, doctors’ gloves or masks, and food packaging. Plastic is therefore not only this polluting element that harms our rivers, our oceans, our planet. It also represents comfort, health, care, and safety.
Plastic is of essential economic importance. In industrial chemistry, its consumption volume is higher than any other materials such as metal. The trivialization of its consumption leads to the creation of many jobs in the plastic manufacturing chain. 10 tons of plastic are produced per second worldwide! In Western Europe, for example, more than 70,000 people work to make plastic and much more work to transform it.
What then if, for all these reasons, we cannot do without plastic?
Adapted solutions against plastic pollution
We will have to rethink the problem differently. Plastic has changed our lives and represents progress for society and the environment, and then undeniably for humanity. However, we find it in nature and it degrades the health of our planet and therefore our own. If deleting it will have a negative impact in terms of progress, then perhaps it is time to continue progress! It is then our behavior as consumers and citizens that will have to be changed!
As the New Scientist noted in 2018, “The big challenge with plastics is not technology but human behavior. “.
The consumer giants
The development of stores with “bulk supply” should be encouraged. On the other hand, they would modify our consumption habits. Plastics can increase the shelf life of our food. “Classic” supermarkets consume a large volume of plastic in terms of packaging used. Reducing, again and again, the use of this packaging, which is not essential, would already be a great step forward in curbing plastic pollution. Also, more and more large brands and retailers are committing to replacing the plastic in their products with recyclable plastics.
All of us responsible citizens
Where it is really essential to shake up our habits is the field of sorting and recycling where we can be active actors of the change. Did you know that, according to a UN report, “only 9% of all plastic waste produced is recycled. About 12% were incinerated and the rest (79%) accumulated in landfills or in our natural environment. “. In addition, there are applications like ZeLoop that make our job fun. We have no more excuses not to roll up our sleeves.
A better future is possible
Technology enables the progress of our society towards a clean future. For example, machines are invented to clean our seas and oceans. Plastic is also being studied to make it totally biodegradable. Be careful however though because what is biodegradable does not disappear once disposed of in nature. It must be done in individual or industrial composters for decomposition to be effective
We have everything to gain by actively participating in cleaning up our planet.