plastics

This is how to end plastics pollution

Plastic pollution is the accumulation of objects and particles in the environment. As plastics degrade slowly, I explore how best to tackle this problem. In this post I explore how best to tackle this problem.

Plastics ban

There are more imaginative ways to end plastics pollution than bans passed by the European Parliament. From 2021 this outlaws the sale and manufacture of single-use items such as:

  • plastic cutlery,
  • cotton buds,
  • straws, and
  • stirrers.

But even if the restrictions are rigorously enforced, they can’t help much. This is because Europeans aren’t the ones mainly responsible. In fact:

By analyzing the waste found in the rivers and surrounding landscape, researchers were able to estimate that just 10 river systems carry 90% of the plastic that ends up in the ocean. Eight of them are in Asia: the Yangtze; Indus; Yellow; Hai He; Ganges; Pearl; Amur; Mekong; and two in Africa – the Nile and the Niger.

Plastic pollution

Europe and America ship plastic waste to Asia and wrongly assume that it is recycled there. But it isn’t recycled; rather most it tends to be dumped. After China halted imports of Western plastic waste in 2017, it seems that Malaysia will soon follow. Consequently, plastic waste will go to underdeveloped countries in Africa and Asia with even lower environmental standards. This means that there is a greater chance that these plastics will be discarded into the ocean. People who live on the river banks compound this problem as they use these waterways to dispose of their waste.

The way forward

Far better for the environment to set fire to low-grade plastics in efficient incinerators. Infrared techniques can extract plastic from the residual waste. This would increase the quality of the plastic to be recycled. Also, fund European experts to work with governments to develop modern collection and recycling systems. They could copy deposit systems for reusable bottles, pioneered in Germany:

Since the introduction of the deposit return system (DRS) scheme, drinks producers are estimated to have made more than €3bn (£2.6bn) from bottles that were thrown away rather than returned into the system …

If the EU pushed initiatives like these would make a beneficial difference.

Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

 

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