What if Plastic Never Became Waste?


If you’re trying to live a more sustainable life, there are probably some specific words that you look for when choosing the products you bring into your home, such as: recyclable, biodegradable, etc. Although these words have a sustainable connotation, they don’t always guarantee that you’re making a planet-friendly choice.

It is convenient to think that biodegradable plastic is the way out of the problem. Think again!

A common myth surrounding biodegradable plastics, for instance, is that they are a more environmentally friendly option since we assume it will just “return to nature” once disposed – in the landfill or elsewhere. The fact is, most plastic never goes away, but breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces – microplastics.

As people are becoming more aware of the Ugly Journey of our Trash and the immense threat that the production and disposal of plastic waste poses to the environment, it is convenient to think that biodegradable plastic is the way out of the problem. Think again!

A UNEP report published in late last year, entitled Biodegradable Plastics and Marine Litter – Misconceptions, Concerns and Impacts on Marine Environments, finds that complete biodegradation of plastics occurs in conditions that are rarely, if ever, met in marine environments and warns that widespread adoption of biodegradable plastics is likely to actually contribute to marine litter and consequent undesirable consequences for marine ecosystems.

It emphasizes that it should be assumed that microplastics created in the fragmentation process remain in the ocean where they transport harmful microbes, pathogens and algal species, and are consumed by a whole slew of marine organisms. The report also cites research that suggested some people are attracted by “technological solutions” as an alternative to changing behaviour. Labelling a product as biodegradable may be seen as a technical fix that removes responsibility from the individual, resulting in a reluctance to take action.

There’s growing concern about about the threats of microplastics. This is one of the many reasons why Project AWARE welcomes the report: The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics and its vision of a global economy in which plastics never become waste. Through our Partnerships Against Trash, we’re working towards a much needed transition from a linear “take, make, dispose” model of economic growth to a circular economy where plastic products are designed to be reused and recycled continuously.

Applying circular economy principles to global plastic packaging flows could drastically reduce the amount of plastics that make its way into the ocean. Help us work towards long-term effective solutions to end the Ugly Journey of our Trash and join the fight against marine debris – Dive Against Debris™ – to contribute data critical to showing the type and quantity of debris, including plastics, which end up in our ocean every year. Remember there is no away when it comes to waste!

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Photo: Plastic bag courtesy of 100% AWARE partner Amarilla Divers

BYLINE: DOMINO ALBERT, PROJECT AWARE COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER

Posted Sunday, 7 February 2016 by Culebra Snorkeling and Dive Center in Culebra Posts & Reviews

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