Hey guys its been a while once again but we’re back with yet another round of research. This round I focused on social behaviours relating to plastic usage as well as some popular misconceptions.
Littering is a behavioural issue and has increased in parallel with our use of disposable products and packaging(1). Over 340 metric tons of plastics are produced in the world annually and about 50% of this volume is for disposable applications(2). A leading cause for littering could be greenwashing which is an advertising tactic to make something appear more environmentally friendly than it is such as biodegradable plastics. Biodegradable plastics will only decompose in a high-temperature (av. 140°F (60°C)) industrial composting facility under strong UV lights(3). This has lead to a more carefree attitude toward plastics due to people have been lead to believe they’re doing good by using biodegradable plastics in place of conventional plastic. The problem lies in that biodegradable cups for example are still being sent to landfills where they will never decompose due to the lack of sunlight, heat and oxygen required for decomposition. In an experiment commissioned by https://www.motherearthnews.com/, four “biodegradable” plastics were tested in a composting facility to see how fast they would decompose; only one had made significant progress after 25 weeks(4). This proves that even biodegradable plastics are an outcome of greenwashing and don’t provide any solution to the ever growing problem that is plastic pollution. (4)
Contrary to popular belief, recycling is not the answer. The majority of recycled plastics are only recycled once or twice before being finally disposed of in landfill or incineration(6), and those plastics can never be recycled to the same quality product and as a result are often recycled into lower grade materials which are then not able to be recycled any further. The reason we think simple recycling is the answer is because it’s the easiest way for our government to tackle our waste management issues and therefore suggests we do it. If we do not send our waste to be recycled, it ends up in landfill and oceans but if we do, the government can export our recyclable waste to China and other East Asian countries. Since 1992, China has imported 45 per cent of the world's plastic waste. Unfortunately for us, China has recently put into effect a ban on the import of foreign waste leaving countries scrambling to manage their own waste. It is now “estimated that by 2030, 111 million tonnes of waste will be ‘displaced’ and have nowhere to go”. (5) It won’t be until then that we really see the effects our plastic usage has on the environment for at the moment it’s being shipped out of sight.