The days of just casually throwing items away should be behind us.
In the UK, every council provides bins or sacks for various types of waste to be recycled. Plastic is one of the materials that need to be recycled whenever possible as the risk of not doing so is simply too great to the environment. The problem, though, is that plastic is classified as ‘difficult waste’ due to the amount of time it takes to degrade naturally.
According to the Guardian in an article from earlier this year, plastic accounts for nearly 15% of waste generated by human beings, it’s then collected and thrown onto landfill sites with the rest of our waste. One of the most harmful and common forms of plastic found here is polythene bags. Where ideally the green option would be for them to be recycled, re-use isn’t always possible. The bag may be too damaged or corrupted for any part of it to be repurposed. Sometimes disposing of it permanently may be the only option left, sadly that does little to promote sustainability. This poses a dilemma, as plastic bags can be hazardous if they blow away from landfill sites into the sea. Here they can be ingested by marine life or sea birds, which could be fatal.
Advancements in biodegradable plastic may hold the solution. This technology is specially formulated to breakdown and rot away once exposed to the elements. It’s hoped that over time such advancements will replace our current plastic bags and therefore our reliance on plastic in general. While the material itself technically is still plastic, it uses enzymes to produce a chemical reaction that degrades much more quickly than usual. This means it can be disposed of without any negative effect on the environment. It will also mean landfill sites will contain fewer polythene bags.
Doing our bit
Such advancements may not yet be commonplace, but for anyone looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to the circular economy it’s worth keeping an eye on. In 2015 the UK government introduced a 5p levy on plastic bags, the desired intention to cut down on their usage. This change, although controversial, has encouraged shoppers to keep hold of their bags and reuse them. While this doesn’t eliminate the problem completely it certainly helps cut down plastic wastage. Ultimately creating waste is a necessary part of life, but that doesn’t mean we all can’t do more to make sure we reduce the negative effect waste has.