Indoor Air Pollution – How to Improve it?

Building an energy-efficient or green home helps achieve several important goals, such as energy conservation and protecting the environment from greenhouse gas emissions. It also helps reduce our energy bills and save money. Another equally important goal of greening our home is to create a healthy indoor environment for the health and comfort of our family.

A number of studies have shown that air pollution is associated with an increased risk of various health problems, including respiratory as well as cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Indoor air pollution is a common problem for every home, regardless of location. Many homeowners do not know that the pollution in their homes can be worse than of outdoors two to five times.

Common Sources of Indoor Air Pollution

Indoor air quality is one of the five major environmental risks to public health. About 2 million people die each year from diseases associated with indoor air pollution, mainly from the use of solid fuels.

Indoor air pollution and allergens can affect our health, causing eye inflammation and runny nose, headaches, and fatigue. The worst cases of indoor pollution are chronic diseases such as respiratory infections, allergies, asthma, and lung cancer.

Common indoor air pollutants include:

Dust is the most common indoor pollutant that can cause respiratory allergies.

Biological pollutants such as pollen, mold, bacteria, viruses, and dust mites that can cause diseases like hay fever or induce asthma in adults and children.

Chemical pollutants include household cleaners, paints, and solvents. These products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause mild syndromes, such as headaches, skin and throat irritation, when people are regularly exposed to them.

Volatile organic gases are emitted by building and remodeling materials, such as paint, lacquer, glue, and plywood. Toxic volatile organic compounds can be released by building materials for several years after installation.

Carpets and upholstery that use formaldehyde as a permanent adhesive. The World Health Organization classifies formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen.

Synthetic fragrances, perfumes, and deodorants. It has been found that some of the volatile and semi-volatile chemicals used are toxic and can cause skin irritation, an allergic reaction, cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and reproductive disorders.

Radon gas coming from a kitchen countertop, attic or basement. According to the US National Cancer Institute, radon is America’s second leading cause of lung cancer.

Combustion pollutants. These are gases or particles that are emitted by non-ventilated or poorly ventilated fuel-burning appliances, such as a fireplace, heater, wood or gas stove, water heater, and dryer. Some of the hazardous gases that can be produced include nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, as well as other chemical fumes.

Tobacco smoke contributes to poor indoor air quality and causes asthma in primary school children.

Pet dander. Animal hairs and dried skins can also be a source of respiratory irritation.

Air purifier for home
Air purifier for home

 How to improve indoor air quality?

You can manage the air quality in your home with a few simple steps. Let’s look at the possible steps for improving the indoor air quality:

  1. Indoor air quality can be improved by removing the source of air pollution. The main solution is switching from solid fuel (coal and biomass) to cleaner and more energy-efficient energy sources.
  2. Cleaning, vacuuming carpets and dusting surfaces regularly from a source of air pollution and allergens can significantly reduce the amount of dust and allergens in the air.
  3. Use high-efficiency filters for air ventilation and change them regularly. Regular filter replacement can significantly improve indoor air quality and your family’s health, especially if someone in your family has serious allergies.
  4. Control of exposure to indoor allergens and air humidity using air monitors. Excessive moisture in the air can cause the growth of mold, mildew, and fungus, in places such as basements and bathrooms.
  5. Cleaning indoor air in your home using an energy-efficient air purifier. Using an air purifier can help reduce indoor air pollution in enclosed spaces.
  6. Use an energy-efficient vacuum cleaner with high-efficiency filters. It has been shown that this significantly reduces interior particulate pollution and, therefore, the symptoms of asthma and allergies.
  7. Replace furniture made of toxin-releasing materials when refurbishing your home. Buy quality furniture from eco-friendly materials that will last you a long time and your family healthy.
  8. Invest in heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems and household appliances, including vacuum cleaner, air purifier, and high-quality air filters. The proper HVAC system of your home with also help you save on energy bills.
  9. The cheapest and simplest way to improve indoor air pollution is houseplants. Studies have identified the 12 most beneficial plants, especially in removing VOCs.

Potted green indoor plants
Green indoor plants. Photo by Huy Phan from Pexels

High-efficiency filters for air ventilation

Advanced technologies for air purification in your home are currently available, including high-performance filters for air purifiers.

HEPA air filters are the most efficient filters available and remove 99.97 percent of dust and particles as small as 0.3 microns. They can remove dust, dust mites, pet dander, pollens, mold, some bacteria, and other common indoor allergens.

Activated carbon air filters can remove gases, fumes, and cigarette smoke missed out by HEPA filter.

Air ionizers create negative ions that change the polarity of airborne particles, causing them to magnetically attract together. Particles become heavier and settle on the ground or on walls instead of staying airborne. Air ionizer removes particles as small as 0.01 microns as well as neutralize chemical fumes, cigarette smoke, viruses, and bacteria.

Germicidal ultraviolet (UV) lamps can effectively destroy germs, viruses, mold, and bacteria. However, the UV lamps cannot remove most allergens and dust, chemical fumes, gases, or cigarette smoke.

Ozone generators are highly effective against odors, including cigarette smoke odors as well as certain chemicals and bacteria. However, some people are sensitive to ozone itself that causes irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat at high concentration.

Final Thoughts

Remember that indoor pollution is more manageable than outdoor air pollution. It is recommended that you invest in upgrading your existing home step by step. You can invest in alternative energy sources, such as solar panels, and energy-saving appliances that will lower your energy bills for years to come.

If you plan to build a new home, you may want to invest in environmentally friendly materials and additional insulation that can trap pollutants and chemicals released by building materials, paint and other toxic materials.

Let us know what you think on this subject. Are you considering investing in your home to improve your indoor environment? Please leave your comment below.

Rethinking Waste – What Is Zero Waste Energy?

Zero Waste movement was introduced in the 80s, which means preventing waste by making the best choices, starting with the extraction of raw materials, product manufacturing, and disposal to a landfill. A zero-waste system approach focuses on redesigning the product life cycle so that the end-product can be reused or recycled, thereby enabling a circular economy.

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health. Other definitions for zero waste given by various organizations and communities are very close.

Zero waste is a systems approach to eliminate waste through recycling and reusing it by redesigning of resource lifecycle. The United States Conference of Mayors adopted a Hierarchy of Material Management, which includes:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility and Product Redesign
  • Reduce Waste, Toxicity, Consumption, and Packaging
  • Repair, Reuse and Donate
  • Recycle
  • Compost
  • Down Cycle and Beneficial Reuse
  • Waste-Based Energy as disposal
  • Landfill Waste as disposal

When something can’t be reused it will enter the landfill, the landfill sites produce huge amounts of methane gas as organic compounds such as food scraps decompose.  This gas is captured and then able to be reused as combustion material to produce electricity.

Why Is Zero Waste Important?

As mentioned above, zero waste means that at least 90 percent of the waste must be diverted from incineration and landfills. Landfills are the least expensive municipal waste management, and this is the most commonly used method in the United States and many other countries. However, landfills have a huge harmful environmental impact, in the form of leachate which can contain harmful metals and chemical pollutants, and this can get into the groundwater.

Landfills also accumulate greenhouse gases, from the decomposition process, which contribute to global warming. There are other alternative methods of municipal waste disposal that can be more environmentally friendly, and some can be used for conversion to energy sources. Recycling municipal waste can be done in several ways, including some alternative ways that have less of a harmful impact on the environment.

Waste Management

Rubbish recycling has developed over decades in many countries with the goal of eliminating waste that is harmful to the environment. Implementing the latest technologies, zero waste communities, businesses, and individuals strive to recover as much waste as possible so that up to 90 percent of the waste is diverted from landfills.

Municipal waste management services are using the latest technologies, such as Material Recovery Facilities, to recover as much waste as possible to divert waste from landfills and turn it into resources.

What Is Zero Waste Energy?

Zero Waste Energy is referred to as renewable energy obtained through anaerobic digestion of solid organic waste and resource recovery processes.

Emerging technologies can be used to further generate energy from non-recyclable waste. The proper application of these technologies in combination with the extraction of expensive goods and organic substances for energy and compost production makes the best use of an integrated waste management system.

Recycling municipal waste helps the environment by removing greenhouse gases from landfills. Utilization of municipal waste using the latest technologies can generate alternative energy. Municipal solid waste is a sustainable and renewable source of energy.

Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT)

MBT plants are designed for the treatment of mixed domestic, commercial and industrial waste. The process combines a front-end sorting facility with biological treatments such as composting or anaerobic digestion.

The MBT facility has one line that sorts single-stream, commingled and source-separated recyclables, and the other line sorts residential and dry commercial waste. It can handle a wide variety of materials, including municipal solid waste, C&D debris, single-stream recyclables, and source-separated OCC, paper, electronic scrap, and white goods.

Anaerobic digestion plant
Anaerobic digestion plant. Credit: Wikimedia

Anaerobic Digestion

Biodegradable organic waste can be treated with or without air access. The aerobic process is composting and the anaerobic process is called digestion.

Anaerobic digestion is a low-temperature thermal process of decomposing biodegradable materials into gas, also called biogas, mainly composed of methane and carbon dioxide.

Biodegradable materials are broken down by microorganisms in the process of anaerobic digestion without the use of oxygen using Anaerobic Digesters. The end result of anaerobic digestion is valuable by-products such as compressed natural gas (CNG) and electricity.

Waste-to-Energy Is Not Zero Waste

There is confusion with Zero Waste and Waste-to-Energy approaches. Although both strive to reduce CO2 emissions and landfills, their goals and technologies are quite different.

Waste incineration is not part of the Zero Waste strategy. In fact, the waste-to-energy approach has been criticized as wasting energy and producing the most expensive form of electricity compared to other resources (including coal, natural gas, and oil).

Zero Waste only accepts anaerobic digestion as the technological process for making sustainable energy resources from waste. Waste-to-energy practices such as incineration, pyrolysis, gasification, and a plasma arc system  are considered as “waste-of-energy.”

“Zero Waste to Landfill” Is Not Zero Waste

“Zero Waste to Landfill” is not the same as the Zero Waste system approach. The former focuses on producing energy by burning waste and thus eliminating landfills. Burning waste is considered as the destruction of resources and ends up with a lower amount and more expensive energy. “Zero Waste to Landfill” approach does not reduce waste and protect natural resources.

Contrary, a zero-waste system approach focuses on reuse or recycles of the products by redesigning of resource lifecycle. According to ZWIA, any term including “zero” means at least 90 percent diversion from landfills, incinerators, and the environment. However, Zero waste does not mean achieving absolute zero.

Zero Waste Cities

Zero-Waste City is a program adopted by cities for phasing out waste without incineration or landfill but using a zero-waste strategy that prevents waste in the first place.

Cities around the world including Auckland, Catalonia, Copenhagen, Dubai, London, Milan, Montreal, Navarra, New York City, Newburyport, Paris, Philadelphia, Portland, Rotterdam, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Monica, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington D.C. announced their commitment to achieve “zero-waste” signing C40’s Advancing to Zero Waste Declaration.

The International Zero Waste Cities Conference (IZWCC, 2018) at Bandung, Indonesia with the theme ‘Circular City is the Future City’ presented the zero-waste approach of municipal waste management to reduce their waste by redirecting it to other purposes, extend recycling and composting and increase the overall sustainability of the cities.

Thus, Zero Waste aims to help people change their habits and lifestyle, minimizing excess consumption and maximizing their recovery. Could you reduce your waste or live a zero-waste lifestyle? Please leave your comment below.


What Can Be Recycled? – The Case of Polystyrene

We cannot change the fact that people produce waste. An average person uses 45-85 tonnes of materials each year. However, we can change how much waste we produce, how we manage it and what we do with it.

Indeed, managing waste in a sustainable way, optimizing recycling and reuse, as well as limiting production, forms a core part of any government policy to protect the environment.

To reduce waste industries, businesses and governments are developing advanced technologies that by mimicking nature turn the waste into a resource.

Dematerialization is being encouraged through the ideas of industrial ecology, eco-design, and eco-labeling. In addition to the well-established “reduce, reuse and recycle” shoppers are using their purchasing power for ethical consumerism.

Reduce or Waste Minimization

Waste minimization is not going to reduce waste output to zero. Therefore we also have to think about what we do with the rubbish left.

Reuse

The reuse of products or materials that would otherwise become waste can provide a range of social, economic and environmental benefits. This is an area where the voluntary and community waste sector has led the way. The sector has pioneered many of the services that are widespread today, such as the re-use of furniture and white goods.

Recycle / Recover

Recycling is a way every individual can help the environment every day – and it is easier to do than it has ever been. Your recycling options will vary depending on where you live and what service provider you have. Some service providers allow you to put all your recycling into one bin, except glass and plastic bags.

Most common is drop off locations specifically for plastic bags, and other waste recycling items.

Polystyrene food containers
Takeaway food in a styrofoam container. Photo credit: Piqsels

What Can Be Recycled

Rigid Plastics/Bottles

– Any plastic bottles or containers found in your kitchen

Paper and Cardboard

– Cereal/snack cardboard boxes

– Phonebooks, magazines, and mail

– Office Paper, newspaper, and cardboard

Metals

– Tin, aluminum, and steel cans

Glass

– Food containers or jars

– Soft drink and beer bottles

– Wine and liquor bottles

What Cannot Be Recycled

Loose Plastic Bags

– Plastic shopping bags

– Plastic stretch wrap

Polystyrene Foam Cups or Containers

– Egg cartons

– Take out containers

– Drinking cups

Soiled Food Items

– Food soiled containers

– Soiled paper products

Other

– Broken or sharp glass

– Fast-food packaging

– Plastic utensils

In many places scheduled trash pickup services to offer customized trash pickup solutions to manage your daily garbage collection and waste needs.

What is Polystyrene?

Polystyrene packaging, commonly known as the trademark Styrofoam is a type of plastic made from petroleum and synthetic chemicals. It usually comes in two forms: “Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), which is used for making disposable cups, plates, take-out food containers, and packing materials and “solid polystyrene, which is used in plastic forks, CD, DVD cases and other products.

Polystyrene can’t be recycled through your weekly recycling bin. Most places still don’t accept it in foam forms because it’s 98% air. So take it back to a local grocery store that participates in a store take-back program for the recycling of the foam packaging. Polystyrene recycling drop off recycling stations are now available at some locations.

Polystyrene is hard to recycle because it is an end product. Polystyrene is non-biodegradable and its lifespan in a landfill can last for hundreds of thousands of years.

What Are the Effects of Polystyrene?

Polystyrene is the most widely used plastic packaging due to its melting point and durability. However, polystyrene is one of the least recycled post-consumer plastics, at a rate of below 1 percent for post-consumer polystyrene foam.

Styrene, a synthetic compound in styrofoam, and styrene oxide can leach into foods and affect human health. Obviously, this poses a serious threat to humans health and the environment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study found tiny styrene residues in the human fat tissue samples. The EPA and International Agency for Research on Cancer consider styrene a “possible human carcinogen” and “that such materials can have serious impacts upon human health, wildlife, and aquatic environment, and the economy.” In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had added styrene to its list of known or possible carcinogens.

Therefore, recycling polystyrene is of great importance as a serious hazard to humans, wildlife, marine life, and the environment.

the case of polystyrene
Styrofoam food containers. Photo by Romana Klee/Wunderstock

Polystyrene Ban

On January 1, 2019, the New York City enforced its ban on Styrofoam. because the material can’t be “recycled in a manner that is economically feasible” or “environmentally effective” in its recycling program. Other cities have already banned EPS packaging including Los Angeles, San Diego, Miami Beach, Seattle and Washington, DC. Several states in the U.S. passed a ban on polystyrene in food containers at restaurants and grocery stores.

Alternatives for food packaging are made from bamboo, cornstarch, mushrooms, and peat plastic, and other plant-based materials.

Currently, many countries across the world banned single-use plastics including Styrofoams. Others consider ESP ban legislation and businesses phase out EPS foam packaging.

Some companies like Dell and Ikea are already offering alternative packaging. Other leading brands pledged to ensure that 70% of their packaging is reused or recycled globally. These are Coca-Cola, Danone, Dow Chemical, L’Oreal, Marks & Spencer, Mars, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever.

McDonald’s is pledging to replace EPS with renewable or recyclable materials in all of its packagings by 2025. Other major U.S. companies like Amazon, Target and Walmart under growing pressure to make plans to phase out the foam.

Starbucks promised to make a 100 percent recyclable coffee cup.  The company plans to double recyclability, compostability, and reusability of their cups and packaging by 2022 and. Starbucks is committed to phasing out plastic straws from its stores globally by 2020.

Besides polystyrene, other packaging products with limited recycling markets include plastic cutlery, straws and paper napkins.

Recycling tips

  • If you buy things that can be reused, you will save precious natural resources and energy used to make them, and you’ll reduce the amount of landfill space we need when they are thrown away.
  • Well-made items may cost a little more, to begin with, but they are usually worth the money because they last for a long time.
  • When your family goes shopping, think about taking bags with you. Only about 700 paper bags can be made from one 15-year-old tree.
  • Plastic bags start out as either oil or natural gas – non-renewable resources. Throw-away bags add a lot of pollution to the environment.
  • If everyone recycled his or her newspaper just one day a week, we would save about 36 million trees a year. You can save a tree for every four feet of paper you recycle.
  • Recycle your newspapers. Recycle your old notebook paper. It is considered “white paper,” and makes better-recycled paper.
  • Batteries that are thrown away produce most of the heavy metals – dangerous substances like lead, arsenic, zinc, cadmium, copper, and mercury – that are found in household trash. These metals are toxic. They can be harmful to humans and wildlife.
  • Turn off the toys and games that use batteries when you are not playing with them. That makes the batteries last longer, and you won’t need as many of them.
  • Use rechargeable batteries and a recharger.

All together, avoid packaging that cannot be disposed of in your community. Instead, choose alternatives made from plant-based material. Take the initiative to encourage local companies, colleagues, and friends to switch to biodegradable packaging. By doing this, you can help protect the environment from plastic pollution and prevent the poisoning of fish and aquatic animals in the ocean.

The Effect of Air Pollution on Human Health

Air pollution has turned into a general health concern everywhere throughout the world. Huge scale economic activities and transportation discharges are significant reasons for environmental air pollution.

Recent studies show that air pollution has a huge impact on our general health and well-being. A Cornell University study claims that about 40 percent of all deaths worldwide are caused by environmental pollution. According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), almost half of million people die prematurely due to air pollution. More than twenty million people die from environmental pollution every year, mostly in developing countries of South and East Asia.

Types of Environmental Pollution

Recent studies revealed the negative impact of air pollution on human health causing so-called environmental pollution diseases. Diseases caused by pollution can be originated from air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, food pollution, and noise pollution and some other factors.

Ambient air pollution is one of the most widely spread and affects everyone. Clearly, the most affected individuals are those working and living in polluted air conditions (for example, different industries and buildings with indoor air pollution). Moreover, enormous city smog is a common reality everywhere around the world which is affecting countless individuals.

There are different air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, sulfur oxide, and organic volatile compounds.

Air pollution
Air pollution by industrial chimneys

Impact of Air Pollution on Health

Air pollutants can enter our bodies in the form of gases and particulate matter (PM) through the airways and lungs. Once in the body, toxic compounds enter our circulatory blood system, affecting different parts and organs. Symptoms can range from simple ones like nausea, dizziness, headache, and coughing to more serious ones such as respiratory and lung diseases.

Serious health conditions caused by air pollution include respiratory and cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Respiratory diseases due to poor air quality in urban areas are asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Air Pollution and Cancer

Air pollution is a leading cause of various types of cancer. Severe illnesses include pulmonary cancer, such as mesothelioma, a particular type of lung cancer that is usually associated with exposure to asbestos.

Leukemia, a type of blood cancer, is usually associated with exposure to benzene vapors via inhalation. Cancers of the liver and other organs are caused by inhalation of carcinogenic volatile chemicals.

Skin cancer is usually seen as a result of prolonged exposure to UV radiation. However, exposure to environmental pollution can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

Air Pollution
Air pollution by industrial chimneys

Air Pollution and Mental Health

Particles smaller than PM2.5 and ultrafine particles (UFPM), can cross the blood-brain barrier and affect the brain and the central nervous system. Several studies have been shown that these particles negatively affect the structure of the brain, causing degenerative changes such as a decrease of white matter or neuronal degeneration.

Chronic exposure to ambient air pollution can cause oxidative stress and neuroinflammation which leads to physiological alterations of the central nervous system.

Therefore, air pollution is one of the important factors that can affect mental health, causing the early onset of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and other forms of dementia.

Air Pollution Is Linked to Depression and Suicide

Depressive disorders affect about 350 million people worldwide resulting in reduced quality of life, a higher risk of morbidity and premature mortality.

Numerous studies have shown that environmental pollution may be linked to bipolar disorder, depression, and suicide. The link between an elevated exposure to tiny particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and ozone and depressive episodes has been confirmed. There are many risk factors for such mental conditions, the most significant of which are the social circumstance or chronic infections.

Air Pollution Affects Kids’ Mental Health

Cincinnati’s study has shown a positive correlation between elevated exposure to air pollution and a kid’s mental health. Poor air quality caused inflammation and the rise of depressive episodes, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Accumulated evidence confirms that children exposed to poor air conditions revealed decreased attention, short-term memory, and below-average levels of an intelligent quotient. The negative environmental impact on a kid’s mental health may be elevated by poverty caused by stress and other social and health conditions.

Several studies link autism and autism-like disorders to the effect of fine PM from ambient air pollution.  Air pollution affects prenatal brain development and an increased risk of developing mental disorders as well as neurobehavioral disorders, birth and immune system defects, and premature death.

Altogether, the link between urban air pollution and human health condition is obvious. Air pollution is an environmental hazard, therefore, novel public health initiatives have to be implemented to prevent health deterioration reaching epidemic proportions.

Governments and businesses need to focus on greening our cities and changing to cleaner transport. Sustainable cities and communities programs should focus on investing in environmentally friendly public transport, green buildings, and public spaces, as well as improving urban planning and management.

What green initiatives have been implemented in your city or community so far? Are you satisfied with the environmental situation in your city or does it still need to be improved? Please leave your comment below.


Why Should We Ban Single-Use Plastics?

Plastic is a very extraordinary substance with numerous useful applications however it doesn’t worth to produce it for only a single-use when it is so seemingly long-lasting, persevering, and harmful for the natural environment.

What Is Single-Use Plastic?

Single-use plastics, or disposable plastics, are used just once before they are discarded or recycled. These are plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, soda, and water bottles and most of the food packaging. Disposable plastic shopping bags take around 20 years to degrade in the ocean – leaving synthetic substances and harmful particles (microplastics) behind. A bottle that holds one beverage will take 450 years or more and for a polystyrene (styrofoam) container  – from 500 to hundreds of thousands of years to break down into microplastic.

We produce approximately 300 million tons of plastic every year and half of it is disposable! Worldwide just 10 to 13 percent of plastics are recycled. Petroleum-based plastic isn’t biodegradable and for the most part, goes into a landfill where it is covered or it gets into the water and discovers its way into the ocean. Albeit plastic won’t biodegrade (deteriorate into a common substance like soil) it will degrade into tiny particles after many years. During the period of degrading, it discharges toxic substances that advance into our food and water supply.

We produce a large number of plastics consistently, a large portion of which can’t be recycled. Clearly we have to use less plastic, move towards environmentally sustainable products and develop technology and innovations that recycle plastic more effectively.

E.U. Single-Use Plastic Ban 

In October 2018, the European Parliament voted for a ban on the top 10 single-use plastic items including straws, plates, cups and cotton buds, in an attempt to stop plastic pollution of the ocean and empower sustainable options.

The Single-Use Plastics Directive will ban items for which alternatives are available, for example, single-use plastic cutlery, plates, and products made of oxo-degradable plastics, by 2021. E.U. members states will likewise need to accomplish a 90 percent collection target for plastic bottles by 2029.

Moreover, the agreement will extend the “polluter pays” principle, putting more pressure on producers of tobacco filters, fishing gear, and other pollutive items to support environmental obligation.

The ban is, initially, extensive. Besides the 2021 complete restriction on a lot of single-use items, the use of plastics for which no alternatives now exist – generally food packaging – should be cut down by 25 percent by 2025. Beverage bottles will require be collecting and recycling at a pace of 90 percent by 2025. Cigarette butts should be reduced by 50 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2030.

As per the European Commission, over 80 percent of marine litter is plastics, and less than 30 percent of the 25 million tons of plastic waste produced yearly by E.U. nations are recycled. Because of its slow pace of decomposition, plastic accumulates in oceans, seas and on seashores in the E.U. and around the world. The legislation is evaluated to keep away from around $25 billion worth of environmental damage by 2030.

E.U. single-use plastic ban
The most common objects of plastic pollution. Credit: Twitter
What Is Being Banned?

The E.U. Single-Use Plastics Directive focuses on the most widely recognized plastic pollutants of the ocean. The list of banned products such as cutlery and cotton buds was picked because there are promptly accessible alternatives, for example, paper straws and cardboard containers.

Other products, “where no elective exists” in any case must be decreased by 25 percent in all member states by 2025.

MEPs likewise attached alterations to the designs for cigarette filters, a plastic pollutant that is common litter on seashores. Cigarette producers should lessen the plastic by half by 2025 and 80 percent by 2030.

Another ambitious objective is to ensure 90 percent of every single plastic beverage bottles are collected for recycling by 2025. As of now, bottles and their lids represent about 20 percent of the ocean plastic. Producers will likewise need to assume greater responsibility for what befalls their plastic items and packaging.

Single-Use Plastic Ban in North America

Only around 10 percent of plastic waste gets recycled in the USA and Canada. Most plastic up in landfills, some is burned and others wind up in unmanaged dumps.

Canada plans to “ban harmful single-use plastics as early as 2021” and address companies that that manufacture or sell plastics to be responsible for their plastic waste. The Canadian government did not specify which single-use plastic items will be banned, but most likely the list will include “shopping bags, straws, cutlery, plates, and stir sticks”.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada threw away 8 billion Canadian dollars’ worth of plastic material each year. “People have had enough of seeing their parks and beaches covered with plastic,” he said. “That’s a problem, one that we have to do something about.”

There is no nation-wide plastic ban in the USA. However, several states announced a ban on most types of disposable bags. In 2016, California passed the first statewide ban on single-use plastic, as well as a 10-cent tax on paper or reusable bags.

Other states include Hawaii, New York and as well as the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

New York plastic bags ban
New York bans plastic bags. Image source: Pixabay / BrightVibes

There have also been plastic bag bans implemented in cities like Seattle, Boston, San Diego and Washington, D.C., and some states like Maine, Vermont, and Maryland.

However, this has led to clashing over whether it’s legal to ban plastic in some cities and states, placing a ban on ban. The plastic industry is putting a lot of their money on preemption to make it illegal to ban single-use plastics.

Plastic Pollution Is a Global Challenge

Countries around the globe are joining the initiative in banning harmful plastics. The United Nations reports that 180 countries reached an agreement to reduce single-use plastics that make it to the ocean and is harmful to marine wildlife by imposing bans or taxes.

In 2002, Bangladesh was the first country to ban plastic bags. The Indian government announced that will eliminate single-use plastics by 2022. Since 2017, Kenya has implemented the strict plastic bag ban for selling, producing or using plastic bags that could end up with imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000. Single-use plastic bags have been prohibited in New Zealand starting on July 1, 2019.

Chili was the first country to ban nationwide single-use plastics in Latin America, followed by Colombia and Panama. Costa Rica pledged to abandon disposable plastics by 2021. Other countries and cities in Latin America and the Caribbean use taxes, bans and innovative approaches.

The Impact of Plastic on the Environment

A large number of plastics floats in the ocean in goliath islands of plastic waste. As indicated by the World Economic Forum, 90 percent of the plastic winding up in the oceans, and that presently there are 50 million tons of plastic in the world’s oceans.

Obscure amounts have degraded into tiny toxic microplastic particles that act similarly as microbeads, drawing in and restricting different toxins and making themselves increasingly dangerous. While it floats and breaks down, the plastic drains marine-toxic synthetic compounds into the water. Microparticles of plastic end up in the stomachs of marine creatures, birds and, in a human organism too.

single-use plastic ban
Sea lion tangled in plastic. Photo credit: Pxfuel

The impacts of plastic bags and bottle caps on seabirds, turtles, seals, whales, and different species are graphically shown by their death from starvation after erroneously expending the plastic or from getting tangled up in it.

These toxic substances are presently being found in our circulation system and the most recent research has discovered them to upset the Endocrine framework which can cause cancer, infertility, birth defects, impaired immunity, and numerous different sicknesses.

In conclusion, we need to consider changing our everyday shopping habits such as excessive consumption and minimizing single-use plastic waste. Before buying anything containing plastic parts, consider alternatives, including packaging. You can find more recycling tips here.

What are other ways to avoid using single-use plastics? Do you use them when you go shopping? Do they help you minimize your expenses or vice versa? Please share your comments or questions below.