The Plastic Pollution Emergency and Meaningful Actions to Stop It - Part 1 of 2
Updated: Apr 6
Trillions (yes, you read that number right) of single-use packs containing plastic are sold worldwide yearly. Less than 10% of them get recycled. Many of the rest are technically recyclable, but it is neither economically nor ecologically viable.
The "circular economy" of plastics is supposed to be the panacea. But how many packaging professionals, let alone policy makers and influencers realise that the basic technical, economic and environmental premises of the circular economy of plastics are simply incorrect?
The sheer magnitude, complexity, geographical dispersion and low value of single-use plastic packaging waste overwhelms the collection, sorting and recycling facilities. Even if, by some miracle, these facilities were multiplied ten times, they would be costly to run, consume energy and water resources, and generate unacceptable amounts of CO2 and toxic solid waste. And there is no market for the recyclates from these facilities.
Refill/reuse is often touted as the alternative to single-use plastics. But, As we saw in our earlier blog, refill /reuse systems often do not work even during pilots, let alone being scalable.
Even where it might be technically feasible to replace plastic in packaging with paper, metal or glass, the economic and environmental consequences of such substitution will be far worse.
No matter how hard we try, eliminating all plastic from single-use packaging is technically, economically and environmentally impossible in the foreseeable future.
What, then, are we supposed to do to tackle plastic pollution? In this blog series, we address that question head-on.
At the end of the first blog in this series, I invite your attention to a report by Greenpeace, as it helps set the context.
I used to associate Greenpeace with a well-intentioned but shrill and often unhelpful tone. However, their recent report on plastic pollution is exceptionally thoughtful, well-researched, and constructive. I would strongly recommend that you read it in full. It will be worth your time. The report is accessible at the URL below:
Image generated by AI for Packaging for the Future 2023