Although our landfills and oceans are full of it, we are as dependent as ever on plastic. And since COVID-19, it’s gotten worse.
Last year, Canada announced it was working on a ban of single-use plastics, which was initially sidelined by the pandemic. Recently, the government announced that many single-use plastics will be banned by the end of 2021. At the same time, CBC News reports our single-use plastic use increased by 250 to 300 per cent as people tossed their personal protective equipment and stopped using reusable bags and containers over fears they would spread the virus.
What makes our lives convenient is also burying us. Plastic Wars, presented by The Passionate Eye, looks at the mounting crisis and how the industry has spent millions promoting recycling — just to sell more plastic. Less than 10% of the plastics we’ve used have been recycled.
Although activists sounded the alarm about plastic waste in the 1970s, the documentary claims from 1990 to 2010, plastic production more than doubled. We’ve been sorting our trash for decades, believing it would be recycled. But the truth is the vast majority of the plastic we use won’t be. Over the last seven decades, less than 10 per cent of plastic waste has been recycled.
That’s because, says David Allaway, from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the conversation has been almost exclusively about recycling and not reducing and reusing. Recycling logo was used as a green marketing tool, says industry expert
In the ’80s, the industry was at the centre of an environmental backlash. Fearing an outright ban on plastics, manufacturers looked for ways to get ahead of the problem. They looked at recycling as a way to improve the image of their product and started labeling plastics with the now ubiquitous chasing-arrows symbol with a number inside.
According to Ronald Liesemer, an industry veteran who was tasked with overseeing the new initiative, “Making recycling work was a way to keep their products in the marketplace.”
Most consumers might have assumed the symbol meant the product was recyclable. But according to experts in the film, there was no economically viable way to recycle most plastics, and they have ultimately ended up in a landfill. This included plastic films, bags and the wrapping around packaged goods, as well as containers like margarine tubs.
“Our own customers … they would flat out say, ‘It says it’s recyclable right on it,'” says Coy Smith, former board member of the National Recycling Coalition. “And I’d be like, ‘I can tell you, I can’t give this away. There’s no one that would even take it if I paid them to take it.'” He believes manufacturers used the symbol as a green marketing tool.
“If the public thinks that recycling is working, then they’re not going to be as concerned about the environment,” says Larry Thomas, another top industry official interviewed in Plastic Wars.
According to Lewis Freeman, a former vice-president with the Society of the Plastics Industry, many in the industry had doubts about recycling from the start. “There was never an enthusiastic belief that recycling was ultimately going to work in a significant way,” he says.
Yet the plastic industry spent millions on ads selling plastics and recycling to consumers.
Lots of our plastic was shipped to China, then Southeast Asia, for ‘recycling’
To solve the plastic waste problem, many recyclers started selling their product to China in the 1990s. According to recycling broker Sunil Bagaria, China took waste that North American recyclers couldn’t use. “As long as it remotely resembled plastic, they wanted it,” he says.
But they used the good stuff and disposed of the rest. And because of a growing plastic waste problem in that country, China finally stopped taking most imported plastic waste in 2018.
“We never asked the question, ‘Are they doing it the right way? Are we damaging the environment more in the name of recycling?'” says Bagaria.
Now, Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia have picked up the plastic waste market. And although some North American plastics recyclers are following up to ensure their products are in fact being recycled, plastic waste is now a growing problem there, too.
In Plastic Wars, local activist Yuyan Ismawati visits a rural community where locals scour through a huge field of plastic waste for items of value and burn the rest. This creates health problems for the residents in addition to destroying the surrounding environment. “We are struggling to clean up the modern debris and modern litter in Indonesia, the additional burden of waste from overseas — I don’t know how we are going to handle it,” says Ismawati. “Americans need to know that your waste ended up here.”
Production of plastics expected to triple by 2050
In 2020, roughly 60 years after concerns about plastic waste were first raised, the focus is still on the consumer to recycle, says Allaway, and not on the environmental impact of the product and overproduction by the industry.
According to Plastic Wars the problem is only going to get worse. By 2050, it’s estimated the global production of plastic will triple. As the oil and gas industry — which provides the source materials for plastics — faces a future of declining demand for fuel, it has turned to other markets.
The stakes are high, says Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA. “This is their lifeline,” she says. “They are going to double down on single-use plastic like we have never seen. So we’re heading towards a real battle…. This is the big war.”
People around the world are slowly beginning to become more aware of how we use and dispose of earth’s resources, beginning to implement practices to reduce their carbon footprints and overall impact on the environment. One of the first moves most people make when working towards more sustainable practices is to cut out plastic, more specifically, single-use and disposable plastic products and packaging.
Plastic water bottles, straws, bags, and other single-use items have seen a significant decrease in use and demand, and many people have learned to choose reusable or packaging-free options wherever possible at the grocery store or when out for lunch or coffee with a friend. Though entirely possible in many circumstances, there is one place people haven’t spent much time considering when it comes to ridding their lives of plastic: the bathroom.
If you are aware that conventional facial masks are not recyclable and find these uncomfortable we have an amazing solution to both issues!
The World Health Organization (WHO) currently lists a handful of different types of recommended face masks. According to WHO, medical masks — those disposable, usually blue masks you’ll often see on health professionals — should be worn by those with underlying health conditions and people over the age of 60. Fabric masks are known as non-medical masks, and WHO says they should be worn by people who have no COVID-19 symptoms in places where COVID-19 is widespread or in instances where it is not possible to socially distance. Masks are especially important if you are in close contact with people, such as on public transport or while shopping, and must be worn over the mouth and nose to be effective.Silk fabric face masks are new, but the luxe material has already proved to be useful in the beauty industry. Hair experts recommend silk bonnets or turbans for protecting hair types prone to damage, tangling, and drying out. Skin professionals also champion silk pillowcases for minimizing creasing and friction on the skin. Are silk face masks similarly beneficial — and more importantly, are they effective against potential transmission of coronavirus compared to other materials?”Silk masks have been shown to be an effective mask while also preventing facial irritation,” says Howard Sobel, MD, attending dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital and founder of Sobel Skin. “It has been discovered that high thread count cotton and natural silk can effectively filter out particles.”With maskne on the rise, perhaps silk is a better option than cotton or other thicker materials when it comes to skin. “Maskne causes breakouts due to the combination of friction, heat, moisture, and clogged pores,” says Dr. Sobel. “If you haven’t already experienced maskne, you very likely could, as spending more time outdoors mixed with heat, humidity, sunscreen, facial products, and makeup can cause breakouts.”
Dr. Sobel goes on to list the specific benefits of silk face masks. “They are especially beneficial if your skin is sensitive,” he says. “Certain mask materials can cause issues because some textures can be irritating and leading to spots.” Silk is a material that is less likely to cause problems. “Silk is cooling, naturally hypoallergenic, and tends to absorb less moisture than cotton, so it won’t dry out your skin,” Dr. Sobel continues. “100% silk does not clog pores, so finding a mask like this is an added benefit,” especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin.While Dr. Sobel says that silk face masks are considered better for preventing skin concerns such as maskne, he points out that it’s important to remember mask hygiene plays an important part in skin care and overall health. “Wash your mask after each use, make sure your mask is completely dry before wearing it, and change your mask right after you sweat in order to fully prevent breakouts,” he says. Those tips aren’t just best practices for the sake of your skin — they’re public-health essentials.
The disposal of plastics is a global problem – from the highest mountains to the deepest ocean trenches, waste plastic seems inescapable. In natural conditions, plastics are nearly indestructible, and yet they are thrown away worldwide on a large scale – putting a lot of strain on the environment. Yet there are good news to be shared.
On 19th September 2020 we marked the World Cleanup Day, a movement uniting 180 countries across the world for a cleaner planet. www.worldcleanupday.org
Also in September South Australia has become the first Australian state to introduce laws banning some single-use plastics. Environmental campaigners say the laws, likely to come into force in early 2021, are historic and will help protect wildlife on land and in the oceans.
Let’s hope such positive changes will happen in other states of Australia and everywhere in the world.
Hello bamboo pen / good buy metal straws
The decision was made to make NonPlastik even more sustainable. I decided to keep the products predominantly from the raw natural materials, therefore I will no longer restock for the metal straws. If bamboo ones are simply cut from bamboo stems, certainly the metal ones are taking more resources to be produced.
Besides, there is always a metal aftertaste I personally do not like. Finally, if you use the metal straws for hot drinks, these do not isolate hit like bamboo ones and heat up fast. Did you know that in Bali where our bamboo straws are coming from, hot coffee is drank with straws?
In place of the bamboo straws, I am looking to introduce sustainable, eco bamboo pens. I really cannot find any in regular stationery shops and this is a great alternative to the plastic ones. I hope you are with me on this.
Let’s cooperate together towards reducing the use of plastic to sustain our beautiful planet.
The first shock of the global lock down is over, maybe some more are underway. At the same time with health becoming the primarily concern worldwide, the agenda of plastic reduction is even more relevant.
With hope that by taking over this project, the awareness of plastic’s danger for us and our planet will spread, with Switzerland taking action.
There are also plans to diversify the range of products, so please do participate actively by indicating which products could add value by taking a very brief survey.
The time is only now and all can be improved through individual action.
The information below is taken from the www.sumofus.org petition:
While the EU has finally begun making plans to cut down on plastic waste, Switzerland is falling behind, big-time.
Each year, Switzerland generates nearly 100kg of plastic waste per capita — over three times the European average.
While the EU is considering a ban on single-use plastic products like balloon sticks, straws, cutlery and microbeads in cosmetics, Switzerland’s environment minister has refused to take steps to address the plastic crisis, instead parroting lobbyists’ ridiculous claim that any such ban would “interfere with economic freedom”.
Misleading reports would have you believe Switzerland is the “recycling champion of Europe” — but in reality, the country burns the majority of its plastic waste, an imperfect solution that unleashes tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Only about 35 percent is recycled, far below the European average.
In fact, Switzerland’s recycling system is so convoluted that some residents have taken to dumping their waste across the border in France (aka “rubbish tourism”) while others just plain litter — volunteer groups like STOPPP have found thousands of plastic items in and around Switzerland’s lakes and rivers.
Meanwhile, plastic has invaded Swiss soil — a new study of river flood plains found 90 percent of samples contaminated by the kind of microplastic particles that are still recklessly added to cosmetic products. Switzerland’s parliament came close to banning those microplastics in 2017, but ended up caving to corporate pressure.
In 2018 over 700,000 SumOfUs members told the EU Commission to ignore corporate lobbyists and commit to taking action against single-use plastic — and in January, they did. Now, it’s time to show Switzerland that it’s not going to be the exception. When it comes to plastic pollution, we’re all in this together.