Plastic waste is posing a huge threat to our environment as it takes thousands of years to decompose. A report conducted by the World Economic Forum in 2016, showed that plastic waste has increased by twenty percent, in the past fifty years. It is predicted that this will double in the next twenty years or so and that by 2050, we will use three times as much plastic as we used in 2014.
Plastic was initially created in 1933, and it became popular in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s. Plastic was viewed positively in the past as it is cheap to create and its disposability was seen as an advantage. This optimism on plastic did not last too long. The reputation of plastic has further declined due to the growing concern that it is destructive for human health. Scientists have lately been concerned about evidence showing that particles of plastic are likely to be inside all of us, as marine ecosystems are ingesting its debris. According to the British Antarctic Survey, more than one hundred and eighty species of animals have been documented to digest plastic waste including birds, fish, turtles and marine mammals such as whales.
Social media posts have recently sparked outrage amongst the general public, as images of plastic debris on beaches and dead animals with stomachs filled with waste are being shared. These images bring awareness amongst the general public resulting in countries banning the use of certain plastics. Typical initiatives that are being adopted is the complete ban of plastic bags and straws.
Despite growing concerns, plastic is crucial to the modern world as it has made possible the development of computers, laptops, cell phones and most of the lifesaving advances of modern medicine. Plastic helps save fossil fuels used in heating and transportation. Without plastic many possessions that we may take for granted might be unavailable. In view that plastic has a valuable role in our lives, scientists are attempting to make such material safer and more sustainable. Scientists have recently been working on developing bioplastics that are made out of plant crops. Bioplastics have the potential to reduce GHG emissions and would be carbon neutral.
Members of the European Parliament have recently voted on a directive to ban ten single use plastic items including cutlery, straws, cotton buds and stirrers. This ban is expected to come into force by 2021 in all the 28 EU member states. The directive will also ban single use polystyrene cups.
EU member states will now have to introduce measures to reduce the use of plastic food containers and lids for hot drinks. The EU has set a target that by 2025, plastic bottles should be made of twenty-five percent recycled content, and that by 2029, ninety percent of them should be recycled. The EU is also tackling wet wipes that clog sewers. Wet wipes, sanitary towels, tobacco filters, and cups will be labelled if they are made with plastic. Packaging will now need to warn consumers of the environmental damage that they create if they are disposed of incorrectly.