What Will Save the Ecosystem from Plastic Pollution?
Despite lengthy discussions on the viperous effects of plastics, usage continues to rise. Measures such as taxation don’t seem to have an impact. Plus, many users ignore proper disposal measures to allow for recycling.
With the situation uncontrollable, recycling professionals yielded to calls of banning plastic. For governments, the ball is in their courts; they must ban plastic. According to the World Resources Institutes report, over 127 countries have plastic regulations, but most legislations are partial, as governments fear the impact of total restrictions.
Inadequate legislation on eco-friendly alternatives also poses a massive challenge to the banning of single-use plastics. As per the WRI report, only 16 out of the 192 reviewed countries, incorporate regulation of the plastic alternatives.
With time, authorities will seal the loopholes in the legislation as they find ways of counteracting the challenges. Meanwhile, businesses and plastic users should start shifting to environmental-friendly alternatives.
What are the Eco-Friendly Alternatives to Single-Use Plastic?
It’s startling how people still hang on single-use plastics despite their harm to human health and the environment. Besides, there is no shortage of viable eco-friendly alternatives.
Multiple companies and entrepreneurs have come up with a range of green products since the war against plastic pollution started.
So, what are the solutions to single-use plastic?
Reusable Shopping Bags
Plastic bags are now the primary cause of plastic pollution. Worldwide, shoppers still use plastic bags every 12 minutes, adding to the billion pieces which end up as litter and pollute the environment.
In the UK, a 5% charge on shoppers for the use of plastic shopping bags seems to have reduced production and sales of plastic bags. Some reports cite a 90% drop in plastic purchases, which is an astounding figure considering the charge focuses on “major” outlets.
Countries which have prohibited single-use plastics without providing sustainable or affordable alternatives face challenges. They struggle with the penetration of “black market” plastics or trash bags into the markets.
Reusable shopping bags come as a better alternative to both recyclable and single-use plastics. First, it’s difficult to pile a bunch of them like plastics, as you will have to purchase a new one every time you go shopping. Plus, if you consider cost, you won’t go shopping without carrying one.
The beauty of using the reusable shopping bags, is they come in multiple designs from canvas to cotton, to woven sisal fibre, to hemp, cotton or hemp. Considering they are all made of natural and biodegradable material, they are safer.
Biodegradable Paper for Single-Use Plastic
Not one, but many studies show plastic takes between 500-1000 years to decompose. Plastic cans and plastic paper bags take 20-50 years to decompose. Since the start of worldwide campaigns against plastic use, many plastic manufacturing companies suggested switching to biodegradable plastic.
Biodegradable plastic comes from the addition of additives to plastic material. The thought behind the additives is they allow the breakdown of plastic to particles consumable by micro-organisms. Proponents of biodegradable plastics cite the additives as the solution to plastic pollution and businesses sustainability.
Research findings from the Michigan State University disapprove the effectiveness of the additives as solutions to landfills and composting. The research featured three types of additives and five methods of degrading.
The results; Biodegradable plastic and standard plastic produced similar decomposing outcomes. Both never decomposed.
So, it appears biodegradable plastic doesn’t provide a solution to single-use plastic as widely claimed.
Paper as an alternative to single-use plastic is now a trend. More so, biodegradable paper. Its definite article is safer compared to plastics, but it can not fully replace single-use plastics.
Today, there are multiple biodegradable paper products. From paper cups to paper to plates, to paper sheets, to straws, to shopping bags and all packaging material you can think of.
Unlike plastic, regular paper decomposes within a few weeks. thus a lesser risk to environmental pollution. It is also easier to recycle paper, as users find ways of reusing paper. Still, recycling companies swarm garbage sites to collect trashed paper for recycling. For instance, the US recorded a 68% paper recycling rate in 2018 and achieved a 20% forest cover increase from 1970.
Biodegradable Paper Cups
As noted earlier, People throw around plastic cups after use, instead of responsibly disposing or recycling them. For coffee or ice cream lovers, biodegradable paper cups provide an eco-friendly solution.
Reusable Water Bottles
Retailers sell over 500 billion plastic bottles every year in the world. And every second accounts for 20,000 water bottle purchases. While many countries focus on banning plastic bags, plastic bottles seem assumed. And, with the massive use of plastic bottles, it becomes hard to recycle them.
Reusable water bottles offer a safer option for both indoor and outdoor use. Unlike the plastic bottles, one user can rely on a single water bottle for over a year.
Use of Bio-plastics
Don't confuse bioplastics with biodegradable plastics with additives. Bio-plastics comprise natural polymers from plant sources. The plants include sweet potatoes. Hemp oil, starch, sugar-cane, etc..
Bio-plastics can replace single-use plastics, and they are the main ingredient used to make plastic bottles, cups, plates and utensils.
Unlike petroleum generated plastics, their production causes less carbon dioxide emissions, are affordable and require less fossil fuel during production.
Also, Bio-plastics are degradable as they take between 100 to 180 days to degrade
Eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic provide governments and plastic users with options to switch to as they ban plastics. With the other options, businesses can prepare efficiently for the uncertain consequences of plastic bans.
It’s also high-time, businesses become proactive and adopt the eco-friendly alternatives. Waiting on the government to curb plastic use does not serve the environment well.