The big plastic problem

The big plastic problem

Billions of tons of plastic are polluting every single corner of this earth. Micro-plastics are found everywhere - from the bottom of the deepest trench in the ocean to us eating a credit card worth of plastic per week.

Photography Credit: Motion Array - SeventyFour

With local bans on plastic bags, straws and others consumer goods, only a small portion of the industry's plastic waste is actually being addressed. These are the plastics that we as consumers see and have power over using or not using, but there is a multitude of other industrial packaging that should be addressed in our plastic bans for a better future.


The damage of cling film

We need to get our local governments to start putting in bans for products like cling film. As mentioned before, this can't be recycled and is full of harmful chemicals. Cling film isn't only used to pre-package food, but also to package complete containers shipped to supermarkets.

Cling film was discovered by accident in the 30s and it was used by the military to line boots and planes. It wasn't until M&S started to pre-package their foods in 1980 when cling film got really big. For 43p, you could buy yourself a salmon and cucumber pre-packaged sandwich. And the revolution began. Now, the sandwich industry is worth 8 billion in the UK alone.

44% of all plastic packaging in the UK is plastic film, which includes cling film, plastic bags, bubblewrap and plastic pouches (the ones around your veggies in the supermarket). This is 1.2 billion kilos worth of plastic which is (mostly) non recyclable.

The collection of plastic bags, pouches and bubblewrap is mainly organised by supermarkets as barely any councils provide kerbside collection for this type of plastic. Cling film, salad bags and food and drink pouches are not recyclable in the UK and will end up in landfill. Wrap has researched that 2/3rds of this plastic film is household waste. The other third come from industrial, agricultural and commercial sources, which I find hard to believe.

I used to work at a picking and packing center for a large Dutch supermarket chain and the amount of cling film used around their containers was just disgraceful. I bet I wouldn't even have used in a year what they wrap around one container (and I would send off about 15-20 containers per working day). Maybe that supermarket was just really really bad with their packaging?


Are plastic-consuming worms the answer to our plastic problem?

There is so much plastic on this earth, that it's difficult to turn the tide around. In 2017, Spanish scientists might have found a solution to our plastic problem. They have discovered a plastic consuming insect that turns polyethylene plastic into compost. 100 max worms can digest 92 milligrams of plastic overnight - it would take them a month to completely digest a 5.5 gram plastic bag.

Many experiments are currently being undertaken in Canada, the UK and Spain to figure out why these worms can do this and how to utilize this on the large scale. Let's hope they'll be able to use the worms soon and save the planet from plastic!



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