Why Should We Ban Single-Use Plastics?

single-use plastic pollution

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.

Author: EcoDesign&EcoLifestyle

Researcher, entrepreneur, and artist at heart.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *