Building momentum towards banning single plastic products such as straws and plastic bags is encouraging to see. The use of single-use plastics has skyrocketed over the past couple of decades and our ability to recycle these plastics at scale is still poor. However, getting rid of plastics entirely is highly unlikely and may not be the right solution to achieving long term sustainability.
It’s true that far too much plastic is ending up in landfill and as a result in natural environments like the ocean. This is unacceptable, not because we shouldn’t be using plastics, but because it is possible to recycle all plastics. The only reason we don’t is due to education on recycling practices, induvial consumption increases and because it’s not logistically or economically feasible. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
The Problem with Plastic Bans
Banning plastics could reduce the amount of visible pollution but it would be at the expense of other environmental impacts. Plastic bags require far fewer resources (water, land, CO2 emissions, etc.) than alternatives like paper, cotton or other products used for reusable bags.
According to Denmark’s Ministry of Environment and Food, you would need to reuse a paper bag at least 43 times for its environmental impacts to be equal to or less than that of a single use plastic bag. An organic cotton bag must be reused 20,000 times to produce less of an environmental impact than a single use plastic bag.
Taking a Different Approach
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should give up on eliminating plastic pollution. Instead we should focus on systematic solutions rather than those that simply appear to solve problems. We have to eliminate the use of bad plastics and start using good ones instead - good plastics being ones that are easy to reuse.
There are currently no regulations at all governing what kind of plastic packaging can be produced. Many manufacturers produce multilayer films which combine a number of different plastics that are impossible to separate and pre-process. With the right regulations and incentives, this can change.
Why Keep Plastics?
Plastics have revolutionised various industries from food to medical services. Plastics have helped reduce wastage in these areas and provided low-emission packaging solutions. Thanks to plastics, food spoilage is dramatically lower than it once was. Cars, planes and other forms of transport have reduced in weight by hundreds of kilos thanks to plastic components, meaning better performance, less emissions and more room to add safety features. Overall, far less energy is consumed in packaging in every industry.
Plastic has improved all of our lives, but it is a tool that needs to be responsibly managed to curb negative impacts like environmental pollution. With the sustained demand from the community for this to happen, it’s possible to reach a future of 100 per cent sustainable plastic.
Need Sustainable Plastic Solutions?
Dolphin Plastics & Packaging is a leading flexible packaging manufacturer based in Queensland. We are committed to producing sustainable plastic packaging solutions for organisations in a variety of industries across Queensland and down the east coast of Australia.
To find out more about how we can help you, call Dolphin Plastics & Packaging today on (07) 5610 5278 or contact us online.