Today we want to talk about the myths that surround plastic. Many things that are said about plastic are incorrect and therefore we have decided to clear up a few concepts.
1. The problem with plastic is purely a waste issue
The problem with plastic goes much further than the subject of what to do with waste. Our plastic waste has disastrous consequences and a huge impact on the well-being of animals. Millions of animals die an agonising and slow death each year, having ingested plastic or from getting trapped in plastic waste. In addition, the chemical additives that plastics carry, as well as the problem posed by microplastics, have become a real toxic bomb because they have entered our food chain and they are slowly poisoning us. So we can see that no, the problem with plastic is not just a problem of waste management.
2. The oceans can clean themselves
Every now and then, we see new projects addressing the clean-up of the seas and oceans, each one more original and striking than those previous. The majority of these projects entail filtering the ocean surface and collecting the bigger plastic objects that are found floating. However, even if you could “sweep” every corner of all the seas and oceans, these projects would only collect a tiny part of the plastic that already exists, or that will end up in the oceans, as they do not solve the problem of microplastic or the plastic present deep down on the seabed. Furthermore, these projects are regularly funded by the plastic industry itself, to clean up its image, whilst at the same time they continue to promote and justify the excessive use of single use plastics.
3. Plastic can be recycled
This maybe the biggest myth of all that we need to debunk. Firstly, we need to clear up that recycling doesn’t consist of giving a second life to a product. But instead, the product’s material enters into a continuous closed cycle of use and re-use, like the glass and metal systems. In addition, of every 10 items that we throw into the yellow recycling container only 1 is recycled. The other 9 end up in landfill, exported to other countries such as China or India, or incinerated, in what we alternatively call generating energy. Due to technical and economical reasons, plastic is very expensive and truly difficult to recycle (with a few exceptions). The best thing that can happen to it is, that we put it in a rubbish bin and it is converted into products that are not recyclable (this is what is called down-cycling), such as mixed low quality plastics or textiles… That is to say, that we are only delaying its arrival at the rubbish tip. The badly named recycling process doesn’t work and therefore the only solution to plastic contamination is to not generate this waste in the first place.
4. The plastic we find at the beach is rubbish left behind from picnics the day before
Many people think that the plastic waste we find on our beaches is there because someone had a picnic there the day before and left without picking up their rubbish. This is not so. By far the majority of the waste we find on our beaches comes from the sea. At the same time, by far the majority of the waste that we find in the sea comes from land, from the rivers, carried by the wind, or thrown directly into the sea by the authorities that badly manage our waste. Yes, it is our responsibility to take our rubbish with us when we leave the beach, but in order to avoid dirtying the beaches, the best thing we can do is to reduce our daily plastic consumption.
5. Plastic that is not made from crude oil is good plastic
The fact that plastic is not manufactured from petroleum but instead comes from potato, rice, corn or algae does not mean that it is a good plastic. After all, crude oil doesn’t stop being something that was made by nature from what remains of plants and animals. That the origin of the so-called bioplastics is plants does not prevent them from being full of additives that are dangerous for both the environment and human health. What makes a plastic “good” or “bad”, is not the raw material used, but instead, above all, what use we give it. The problem is that we give a single and short-lived use to an eternal and indestructible product. In addition to all of this, let’s not forget that using food (and its derivatives) to substitute petroleum when manufacturing single use plastic, could create a global food crisis and scandalous use of farmland would destroy a lot of natural habitat. Let’s use food to put an end to hunger, not to cover the earth with plastic!