How To Solve The Plastic Problem: Using Plastic Responsibly
Efforts to raise awareness about responsible plastic use have gained massive traction in recent years, as there has been growing concern about how to solve the plastic problem caused by mismanaged plastic waste.
Plastic has a place in the world when used responsibly, it is important to know how to do so. It helps to understand what plastic is, the different types of plastic, and what plastic can be used for.
We'll also look at which plastics can be recycled and what you can do to start using plastic products responsibly.
What is plastic and what is plastic made of?
Plastics are a group of synthetic or semi-synthetic materials, also called polymers. Plastic can be made from various raw natural materials including natural gas, cellulose, coal, salt, and crude oil. Biobased plastics are made from biological materials such as vegetable fats, starch, and carbohydrates, while synthetic plastics are obtained from natural gas, crude oil, and gas.
Plastics can be shaped, moulded, pressed, or extruded when soft and will retain their shape when hardened. Despite there being hundreds of different plastics, only a few are regularly used.
Types of plastic
The seven different types of plastic (the most used plastics):
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE)
- High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
- Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or Vinyl)
- Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
- Polypropylene (PP)
- Polystyrene (PS or Styrofoam)
The possibilities in terms of the application of plastic are almost endless. Plastic is used in a variety of industries for industrial and consumer applications such as packaging and for various building applications, which accounts for about two-thirds of plastic use in developed countries.
The material used to manufacture personal items we own can easily be taken for granted, items such as the toys our children play with, car parts used to manufacture our vehicles or even our dining room tables and chairs contain this versatile material.
Disadvantages of plastic: Plastic pollution facts
It is no secret that plastic being dumped in landfill sites or the ocean can take a lifetime to breakdown. If we look at this objectively, it also means that products made from plastic are durable and long-lasting.
While some plastics are easy to recycle, others must go through slow, ineffective, energy-intensive, and costly processes to be recycled. There is also a limit to the number of times that plastic can be recycled. When this number has reached the quality and integrity of the plastic will start to decline.
As a result, certain types of plastics often end up as waste in landfills or polluting our oceans and freshwater sources.
Advantages of plastic: Why is plastic useful?
Plastic is extremely versatile, affordable, and widely used across industries all over the world, it can take on almost any shape or size and safely hold hot or cold liquids, solids, and acids.
Plastic products, due to their durability, can be used for many years without being replaced, lowering manufacturing costs, energy consumption, and waste.
Did you know that billions of trees are cut down annually? This is contributing to the alarming rate of climate change. Due to its recyclability properties, substituting a wooden product for a plastic product may lessen the harmful effects on the environment. It is also important to note when making the substitution, to ensure that the plastic product is being ethically manufactured and producers give you the option to take products back to them to be recycled.
Unlike organic materials, plastic does not emit harmful greenhouse gases as it decomposes. Methane gas, which is far more harmful to the environment, is not produced during the decomposition of plastics.
While there are other alternative materials that could be used, after extensive research, plastic was often found to be the best solution for several essential products.
How to reduce plastic pollution: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Creative ways to repurpose single-use plastic include using plastic bottles as planters in the garden, and creating yarn by cutting plastic bags into strips, which is ideal for weaving an easy-to-clean doormat. The possibilities are endless.
When recycling, it is important to remember to always rinse the plastic with water to remove organic and wet waste and to use a different trash bag to separate plastic waste from other trash.
Maintaining and continuing to use plastic products as part of a circular economy results in significantly less waste and a smaller environmental footprint.
Conclusion: How to solve the plastic problem
Small changes in our daily habits to combat irresponsible plastic use can have a long-term impact on our environment. Plastics, rather than being disposed, can be upcycled in practical and creative ways, or reused for many years.
Mpact Plastic Containers (MPCSA) is a proudly ISO-14001 certified company that applies the principle of reuse, recover, and recycle wherever possible.
Over the last 4 years Mpact Plastic Containers has diverted 24 000 tons of plastic from going to landfill and has managed to convert this into new products.