Many plastics are now made in such an indestructible way, like PET plastic, that they exist in giant piles and patches around the globe and in the oceans. Even though plastics provide inexpensive, durable alternatives to other materials, they last for so long that they are harming and killing animals because they are in so many natural habitats around the world.
It’s important to find solutions to this problem, and luckily, many places around the world are finding ways to reduce, change, or recycle plastics.
Mitigating the Pacific Garbage Patch
Much of the plastic waste in the world has found its way to a diffuse collection of waste known as the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch that is staggering in its size. However, plans for the Ocean Clean-up include a large-scale trawl that takes into account wildlife and use ocean currents to move through the areas with diffuse plastic, gathering it in long nets. If successful, the strategies being developed may reduce the rubbish in the oceans by as much as 50% in 5 years.
There are also forms of fungi found in the Amazon that are thought to be beneficial in breaking down plastic, even polyurethane and other plastics previously thought to be indestructible in the near term. This has prompted a more thorough search for microorganisms that will help to degrade the plastic we already have produced.
Recycling Bottles in Europe
PET plastic bottles, one of the least biodegradable forms of plastic, are now part of a massive recycling program in Europe, according to Petcore Europe. By offering deposits back to consumers when they recycle bottles, which are used frequently, as well as implementing more and more refillable options in some countries around Europe to reduce PET use entirely, the countries reduce the number of plastic bottles that end up in landfills or shipped to other parts of the world.
Investment in these programs continues to grow, especially as sorting is needed to make sure similar kinds of bottles can be packaged together to be recycled into new bottles.
Biodegradable Plastics to Reduce Future Waste
The European Commission now has a “EU Roadmap for a Strategy on Plastics in a Circular Economy,” which includes development and promotion of plastics that degrade over time. While some of these materials aren’t strong enough for lots of plastic usages, they are great for some thin films, especially films used in the disposal of organic waste.
By using a biodegradable bag around, for instance, compostable trash, or a biodegradable plastic used in a tea bag or coffee capsule, you ensure that the entire package will decay and leave no leftover waste, according to European BioPlastics. With further research, some of these plastics could become strong enough to replace other non-biodegradable plastics in the future.
Banning Plastic Straws and Cotton Buds
Plastic shopping bags, cotton buds, and plastic straws all represent convenience, usually one-time-use items made of plastic that are contributing heavily to the overuse and waste of plastic. According to the BBC, these items could be banned simply because the waste created by them is too much to be worth the benefits.
Given the options of reusable metal straws, other methods of cleaning without cotton buds, and using reusable shopping bags, people would not be negatively affected by such a ban, and the reduction in plastic use would be great. Other countries have had success with charging high amounts in shops for plastic bags, prompting people to be very conscious of bringing reusable bags to the store.
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