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  • Akash Jayakumar

Why we shouldn’t ban plastics?

“Waste is not waste until it is wasted”


The world has produced close to 8.3 billion tonnes (= 75 million Dreamliners)of plastic till now, out of which less than 9% has been recycled and with increasing demand eventually the supply is going to surge, it is estimated that with the current trend we will be at 35 billion tonnes by 2050. Though many consumers are opting for greener solutions like reusable plastic bags with cotton/paper, bio-degradable plastic bags etc (which is a good thing!) unfortunately/fortunately, we cannot ban plastic goods. It’s mainly because of these following four reasons

Alternatives are not any better

The fact that they are less harmful does not make them safe. Plastics are synthetic but most of the alternatives require deforestation and plastics can be used multiple times, where he/she will be forced to use two or three bags for the same purpose, which in turn leads to more trees being cut down and results in larger landfills. Research by the University of Oregon under Prof. David Tyler has revealed that the stress on the environment due to plastics is less compared to paper bags and cotton carrier bags. It was discovered that plastics use fewer chemicals, less water and the amount of greenhouse gas emitted is significantly low. It takes four times more energy to produce a paper bag than it does a plastic one. In a way, Surprise! Surprise! Plastics have a better carbon footprint.

Economics

The poor might be the ones to get affected first. For someone with an income that is not even enough for their daily chores, bags become a privilege. Add to that the need to purchase trash bags and other items they usually use the free bags for, and the poor are at quite a disadvantage. A summary of a report from the National Center for Policy Analysis found that stores inside ban areas in Los Angeles saw a 6% decrease in sales whereas stores just outside of those areas saw a sales growth of 9% over a year. The complete ban on plastics will cripple the economy of developed and developing countries. A new plastic economy must be implemented.



Image: Our World in Data


Plastic is Irreplaceable

We have not found an alternative to plastic. This material possesses the incredible ability to resist damage or soaking by liquid. These made them more hygienic and are easier to maintain. Wet and semi-solid products if packed with alternatives may lead to contamination due to their low resistance against liquid and microbes. There is significant progress in research for new materials, but as of right now Platic is irreplaceable.

Evolving Solutions

There are startups, researchers, MNCs coming up with various innovative solutions. From recycling waste plastic to build-tech solutions, boats(R-Cube Plastics) to converting them into graphene (Universal Matter) and biodiesel and roads etc there are numerous ways we are trying to reduce, recycle, repurpose and reuse. There is light at the end of this tunnel, just that this tunnel happens to be longer than others.

“Plastic bans won’t work, Reshaping its economics will”

Image: iGEM 2016

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