Plastic packaging has received so much flak over the years for its recorded effects on the environment, but is it really the reason why there is so much plastic pollution?
You see, whether you like it or not, plastic is extremely good for packaging - that is why despite all of the massive and suspicious campaigns against plastic over the years, it has retained its position as probably the top option for product packaging.
This is not to say that plastic doesn’t have negative consequences - in fact, it does, and we should be involved in reducing the effects. But let’s be sincere, which material doesn’t? Alternatives such as glass, aluminum, and paper also come with tons of problems. In fact, Euronews Green disagrees with the claim that plastic is worse than other alternatives. This video is also an amazing interview with a plastic expert discussing the plastic problem.
Reasons for Plastic Pollution That Few People Talk About
Some people wrongly think that the use of plastic for packaging needs itself is the cause of plastic pollution - this can’t be further from the truth as plastic pollution is something caused by several other things. These include:
We produce more, hence the need for more packaging. If we truly want to reduce plastic pollution, we should also be willing to reduce industrialization and the need for packaging - which will be a difficult thing for everyone to stomach.
Bad Waste Management
Many times, we like to blame plastic packaging for all the plastic while conveniently forgetting that humans simply are bad at managing waste - irrespective of the material. We should start by enforcing proper waste management solutions across the world and we will see how plastic pollution will reduce drastically.
Bad Recycling Practices
You might want to ask! Are plastic bags recyclable?
Yes! Most plastics used in plastic packaging are recyclable. Whether you decide to use PET (polyethylene terephthalate), HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene), or plenty of other resins, you will likely be using recyclable plastic. Then why is the recycling system doing a bad job of recycling these plastics? It is understood that recycling will greatly reduce plastic pollution worldwide, so why are we still terrible at recycling? The downside with recycling though is that plastic cannot be infinitely recycled.
There are other concerns with recycling; these include the feasibility of recycling and the cost. It is known that plastic manufacturers don't prefer to recycle plastic because of the cost and the quality issues. In short, the culprit here isn't plastic itself, but the people in charge who don't want a higher cost.
To be sincere though, if the plastic manufacturers decide to take on the cost of plastic recycling, this will lead to a higher cost of end-products which the consumers are also unwilling to take on.
At the end of the day, nobody wants to spend more - this has led to a little percentage of recycling.
At the end of the day, everyone is only ready to virtue signal, no one really wants to take on the cost of ending plastic pollution.
If we are able to find an effective recycling solution for used plastic, it will go a long way in reducing plastic pollution. For now, it is only a dream.
If you are a normal human being, you will want the environment to be clean and pollution free; the only issue here is that we are not ready to walk the talk. You will see someone screaming sustainability, yet carelessly throwing away used plastic - some are even the biggest culprits in disposing of plastic waste criminally. It is easy to pick plastic packaging as an easy scapegoat; but until we are ready to actually practice what we preach, we will not be able to solve plastic pollution.
Bad Burning/Incineration Practices
Another viable way to get rid of plastic is to burn it. While the use of traditional incineration techniques might have some downsides, there are other technologies to burn if we truly want to reduce plastic waste. Sophisticated incineration plants are generally referred to as waste-to-energy plants and can greatly help reduce the amount of plastic waste we have lying around. While there might be some concerns about the emission of low levels of toxic pollutants such as dioxide, acid gases, etc., techniques such as gasification and pyrolysis will help to eliminate such downsides. But, are we ready to take these sophisticated burning solutions? I guess the answer is no due to their cost implications.
Lax Governmental Control
It is amazing to see just how much governments across the world do a bad job of forming, passing, and enforcing regulations that will help in reducing plastic pollution in the world. While some countries across the world do better jobs with that, some simply don’t. The United Nations, World Economic Forum, G20, European Union, BRICS, etc should do a better job of enforcing these regulations to counter plastic waste instead of simply laying blame on the plastic packaging industry.
It is incredibly easy to forget that proper disposal of plastic waste can come down to the income of individual households. If you are from the richer class, you will probably find it easier to properly dispose of waste; if you are from the lower income class, proper waste disposal will likely be low on your list of priorities.
Depending on the society you find yourself in, plastic waste disposal may be done effectively or not depending on the attitude of the society. If you belong to a society where it is frowned upon to dispose of things in a bad way, you will be forced to comply with the societal norm; but if you are from a careless and carefree society with little regard for environmental sanitation, you might even be crucified for trying to dispose of plastic the right way.