At first glance, plastic seems like the perfect material: its malleable, resistant and economical – very economical.
Depending on the type of plastic, a kilo of virgin raw material costs pennies and its much cheaper to produce new products than recycling old ones. That´s why manufacturers doggedly use it and why we consumers devour it – its dirt cheap.
Plastic is economical, but comes at a price, a big price….
If we include the other factors in the mix we can see the real cost of plastic.
PLASTIC: A PROBLEM FOR THE PLANET, PEOPLE AND ANIMALS
1. Costing the earth
Our rivers, forests and shores are flooded with containers and with that comes micro-plastics entering the food chain and contaminating the earth. In case the environmental cost of plastic wasn’t enough, there is also an economic cost for the planet.
Have you stopped to think about how much it costs to efficiently manage the plastic we produce?
What is the economic cost of dealing with the waste resulting from approximately 350 million tons of plastic manufactured each year and potentially doubling by 2025 (Greenpeace USA) where will all this plastic go??
If you read our post “Plastic recycling is a lie“, you will know that most of the plastic (at least 70%) ends up in landfill or shipped abroad to countries like Malaysia.
To efficiently manage this material so it does´t end up in the environment would be very expensive. It would involve creating many different processes to recycle even the smallest pieces and least used types of plastic and would also involve hiring millions of people around the world to sort waste in recycling centres.
If this were to become a reality, the cost of each piece of plastic would rise enormously.
Go figure – a plastic comb or teaspoon would cost you infinitely more than its wood or stainless steel counterparts.
So what manufacturers save now, they´re stealing from the planet´s future.
2. Costing our health:
Surely you´ve already noticed, plastic is ubiquitous. Even if you´ve begun to reduce it in your home or have managed to achieve a zero waste lifestyle, as soon as you go out into the street you´re surrounded by it in supermarkets, schools, restaurants and hospitals – plastic rules.
But do you know the consequences of this daily exposure to plastic?
Plastic contains hormonal disruptors; synthetic toxins that alter the normal functioning of the endocrine system causing diseases.
In fact, according to the Ecology Centre, California, exposure to these chemicals can lead to cancers especially breast, prostate and testicular. They can also cause birth defects, immune system suppression and developmental problems in children. Other effects of plastic pollution include lowering of IQ in the next generation, thyroid problems, lowering sperm count, infertility in women, obesity and diabetes. Guardian – Health Costs of hormone disrupting chemicals over €150bn a year in Europe
Although the research is in its early stages, the predictions on public health from these toxins cannot be underestimated and the cost for health service providers could be disastrous.
3. The effect on our animal kingdom:
The animal kingdom is the other huge area damaged by the plastic boom. They die by ingesting it, by getting trapped in it or their habitats become too toxic to survive in.
Its almost impossible to calculate the economic cost of rescuing or saving each animal harmed by the problem of plastic. Among other reasons, because there is currently no reliable research and statistics that show the vast amount of animals affected.
And if its already difficult to measure in economic terms, losing whole species could have catastrophic effects on our planet; its difficult to imagine the huge effort it would take to limit this damage.
IS TAXING PLASTIC THE SOLUTION?
Given the real cost of plastic, there is a debate about possible solutions.
One of them is a plastic tax.
What would happen if our governments treated plastic like tobacco? If plastic is considered a public health hazard and campaigns against it are encouraged?
And above all, what would happen if plastic included a tax to cover the environmental, health and animal costs?
As you can imagine, what would happen is that plastic would stop being so cheap and both companies and consumers would begin to abandon it for other safer and more respectful alternatives for us, the animals and the planet.
OUR PROPOSAL: REUSE AND REDUCE
As we told you in the post “Are paper bags greener than plastic?” Changing one raw material for another is not the only solution.
But in this particular case, changing plastic for paper or glass would solve part of the problem, especially for our health, environment and for the economy.
Alternatives that are being initiated are not only seen as an “eco” alternative, but as a real necessity.
CONCLUSION: PLASTIC IS A CHEAP MATERIAL… BUT ITS COSTING THE EARTH
EPlastic is cheap for those who use it looking for individual savings, but collectively it costs us a lot.
And that leads us to a question: is it fair that the planet, people and animals suffer the true cost of plastic use to line the pockets of a few fat cats?
We think not.
Do you tell us in comments what you think?
Para saber más sobre el tema del plástico, consulta nuestro catálogo de libros