Solutions to the Plastic Waste Problem

Posted on Posted in by Elyas Harris

by Elyas Harris.

At the moment there is a huge amount of plastic waste circulating in the world. It keeps growing too. Beyond global efforts to reduce, reuse, and recycle, this trend is still increasing unfortunately. However, more can be done and highlighting some positive examples can be helpful in reducing plastic waste globally.

Plastic to energy:

In the last few years countries in Europe have been putting better use towards their unwanted plastic. They have figured out a way to convert this petroleum based matter into energy which can be used to power homes. Sweden is a leader in this technology, where they have been taking every bit of plastic they can get their hands onto. Since they have started to manufacture energy from plastic they have started to import plastic from the neighboring countries like England. This is an amazing way to get rid of the plastic. If these techniques can be combined with carbon sequestration processes, then they can help towards a transition towards a green and waste-free world. Hence, as well as helping the environment this approach to a circular economy is also helping the global economy. Waste to energy solutions are usually more economical than fossil-fuel exploration and exploitation, and are well poised to aid a transition from a brown to a green economy. Other countries have been following the lead of Sweden with re-purposing plastics.

In the netherlands they have started to think about building roads out of plastic. The concept will be a modular concept. The interesting thing is that they are building these modular roads out of plastic that has been found in the ocean. This causes a reduction of plastic inside of the oceans. Also it will eliminate the toxins that get leached into the soil from the asphalt. 

Check out these  22 Preposterous Facts About Plastic Pollution by ecowatch:

  • In the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day.
  • Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
  • 50 percent of the plastic we use, we use just once and throw away.
  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.
  • We currently recover only five percent of the plastics we produce.
  • The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year.
  • Plastic accounts for around 10 percent of the total waste we generate.
  • The production of plastic uses around eight percent of the world’s oil production (bioplastics are not a good solution as they require food source crops).
  • Americans throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year (source: Brita)
  • Plastic in the ocean breaks down into such small segments that pieces of plastic from a one liter bottlecould end up on every mile of beach throughout the world.
  • Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
  • 46 percent of plastics float (EPA 2006) and it can drift for years before eventually concentrating in the ocean gyres.
  • It takes 500-1,000 years for plastic to degrade.
  • Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences in the oceans making up about 40 percent of the world’s ocean surfaces. 80 percent of pollution enters the ocean from the land.
  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.
  • Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.
  • One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.
  • 44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.
  • In samples collected in Lake Erie, 85 percent of the plastic particles were smaller than two-tenths of an inch, and much of that was microscopic. Researchers found 1,500 and 1.7 million of these particles per square mile.
  • Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form (with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated).
  • Plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical).
  • Some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.