Let's talk about plastics ... FORBES JULY 2017

Posted on July 07, 2020 | Darys Estrella

Look around you, do you see the plastic?
Invented more than a century ago, it was the first fully synthetic man-made material from petroleum. It is flexible, resistant...

Look around you, do you see the plastic?

Invented more than a century ago, it was the first fully synthetic man-made material from petroleum. It is flexible, resistant and light. It is an omnipresent material and has completely invaded our planet.

Plastic is practical and cheap and is an essential part of our lifestyle. It is difficult to quantify the dependency that we have and to understand the magnitude linked to its use. It is present in many objects of daily use: clothing, footwear, toys, electronics, utensils, covers, bottles, furniture, personal hygiene items.

The same qualities that make it an adaptable and durable product also make it a problem due to the difficulty in reducing its consumption and recycling it.

What happens when our consumer culture no longer needs these objects? Unfortunately, most of those objects end up as trash.

Currently more than 350 million tons of plastic waste are produced per year, and it is estimated that in 2020 it will reach 500 million, that is, each person will have an average annual consumption of 65 kilograms of plastic, this is 900% more than the 1980 levels. If measures are not taken, consumption will continue to grow.

The world consumes more than a million plastic covers per minute, and the shelf life is minutes or hours, perhaps what it takes a trip from the supermarket to the house. But the time it will take for that cover to degrade and the negative impact it will generate can be counted on centuries.

Plastic takes more than 500 years to degrade, emitting pollutants into the environment and modifying our hormonal system due to its introduction to the food chain and the toxic additives with which it is made, such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA) present in packaging, containers and bottles. This type of additives are associated with fertility problems, genetic mutations and increases the risk of some types of cancer.

Some alarming facts:

Every hour almost 500,000 kilos of plastics are dumped into the sea worldwide.

Plastic causes the death of more than a million birds and a hundred thousand marine mammals, turtles and a large number of fish annually, mainly due to ingestion.

For every square kilometer of ocean, an average of 18,000 pieces of plastic float. This plastic, due to heat and sunlight, fragments into macroparticles, which enter our food chain through seafood, such as fish and shellfish. In a study, it was found that seawater contained 6 times more plastic than plankton, which is the first link in the food chain.

Plastic has significant energy potential because it is derived from petroleum, but it is wasted and ends up in the trash. With the amount of oil needed to make a plastic sleeve, a car travels 115 meters.

There is still hope, since biotechnology has developed new materials, such as bioplastics, made from plants, or biodegradable plastics, which, through the action of microorganisms, decompose into carbon dioxide and water.

If you are still looking for a reason to adopt a healthier lifestyle while contributing to the environment, this is a good reason to cut down or avoid plastic as much as possible:

  • Use covers made of paper, recycled plastic, or fabric, which you can reuse over and over again.
  • Get a reusable thermos or container to replace the use and consumption of water bottles. Make sure it is aluminum, glass, or BPA-free plastic.
  • Store food in glass containers.
  • Don't use plastics in the microwave, even if they say they are microwave safe.
  • Avoid foam trays and cups, especially with hot liquids, because in addition to bisphenol A (BPA), they give off polystyrene, a toxic that is very harmful to the body. Avoid this type of material especially to put it in the microwave and for hot drinks.
  • If you buy plastic, choose products that can be reused or recycled, or that are made from bioplastics or biodegradable plastic.

And the most important tip: Think about whether you really need the product. Then Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.