Plastic is really useful and we use it every day. But what happens after we throw it away is causing a big problem for our planet. It's thought more than five trillion pieces of plastic are in the world's oceans and it can take years for it to break down.
For more than 50 years, global production and consumption of plastics have continued to rise. Each year, 400 million tonnes of plastic is produced and 40% of that is single-use - plastic we will only use once before it's binned. More than eight million tonnes of plastic enters the world's oceans each year and most of that escapes from land. Another issue is that not all plastic can be recycled. Every day seven million cardboard coffee cups are thrown away but only one in 400 are recycled.
Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways and oceans. It is estimated that 1.1 to 8.8 million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean from coastal communities each year. Living organisms, particularly marine animals, can be harmed either by mechanical effects, such as entanglement in plastic objects or problems related to ingestion of plastic waste, or through exposure to chemicals within plastics that interfere with their physiology. Experts think that by 2050, the amount of plastic in the ocean will weigh more than the amount of fish in the ocean. Humans are also affected by plastic pollution, such as through disruption of various hormonal mechanisms.
In 2019 a new report "Plastic and Climate" was published. According to the report, in 2019, plastic will contribute greenhouse gases in the equivalent of 850 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere. In current trend, annual emissions will grow to 1.34 billion tons by 2030.
What is the world doing to solve the problem of plastic pollution?
Every single country is part of this plastics crisis. And every single one must be part of the solution. More than 60 nations have taken steps to reduce single-use plastics by imposing bans or taxes, according to a United Nations report published last year. In March the European Union’s Parliament voted to ban the top 10 single-use plastic items found on European beaches by 2021. The EU measure also calls for 90 percent of plastic bottles to be recycled by 2025. Member states must work out the details of bans before the 2021 deadline.
Part of the measures in the strategy include reducing plastic bag usage, as well as investments into the technology and materials spaces. The EU pledged an additional 100 million euro to encourage the development of more recyclable plastics materials and to make recycling more efficient. This strategy requires that all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, aiming to drastically reduce the need for virgin plastics. These developments are driving beverage makers and other businesses to invest in efficient recycling technologies.
This year, on June 20, Klaus Feichtinger and Manfred Hackl became the winners of the European Inventor Award in the industry category. They have developed new technology capable of efficiently sorting and separating plastics, meaning less waste and more new plastics available for production. Their recycling machines, which can be as big as buses, move, sort and filter plastic matter, delivering a high-quality pellet at the end that will be used to create new products.
Currently, out of a world production of 400 million tons of plastic per year, only 2% is dedicated to biodegradable plastic, that is able to dissolve over time. This is bioplastic. EarthBi is the new Italian solution that, thanks to the combination of its own bioplastic and the innovative blockchain technology, promotes the movement dedicated to environmental sustainability. In fact, with the aim of reducing the pollution caused by plastic materials, EarthBi bioplastics are realised using patented and innovative production processes, which include the use of blockchain to ensure transparency in the traceability of the entire production chain.
Corporations are also paying attention as consumer demand for environmentally friendly products grows. Tech giant Dell last year launched a pilot program to recycle ocean plastics to make packaging trays for laptops. Others, like consumer goods conglomerate Unilever and food and drink giant Nestle, have pledged to move toward 100 percent recyclable plastic packaging.
It is worth noting that currently young people around the world, and particularly in Europe, make a great contribution to environmental protection and fight against such global problems as pollution. Since the new generation is the future of humanity, it is very important to listen to the voice of youth, and many governments recognize this and provide youth with the opportunity to publicly express their opinions and try to find the best solution together. One of the best examples is the sweedish teenage girl Greta Thunberg and her inspiring and impressive fight for the future of our planet.
I believe that each person is responsible for our planet, and each of us must, for our part, take measures to solve such global problems as plastic pollution. In this case, I think we should stop using plastic bags and buying take-away coffee and food in disposable plates and containers. We also need to pay more attention to proper recycling. In Russia, for example, recycling is not a common practice, but despite this, it is possible to find private organizations where people can hand over waste for recycling. The less we buy and use products containing plastic, the more we help our planet survive. The future of our planet is impossible without our care!