They’ve been with us for over a century. They keep food fresher longer, they allow more sanitary conditions in hospitals, they surround us from cradle to grave.
And while the benefits of plastic are many, there are a number of problematic issues that come with our increasing dependence on this wonder material. The darker side of plastic includes:
- On average, 300 million tons of plastic are produced around the globe each year. Of this, 50% is for disposable applications such as packaging.
- Plastics make up 85% of medical equipment. IV bags and tubing alone constitute up to 25% of hospital waste. In all, U.S. hospitals discard approximately 425,000 tons of material annually.
- Plastics manufacture makes up 4.6% of the annual petroleum consumption in the U.S., using roughly 331 million barrels per year. None of this energy is recovered when plastics are disposed of in landfills, and very little is recovered when plastic waste is incinerated.
- Recycling plastics poses major logistical difficulties, including effective sorting (which increases costs) and the mixing of different plastic streams affecting the resultant post-consumer products.
- In 2008, 34 million tons of plastic was disposed in the United States. Of this, 86% ended up in landfills. However, “disposal of plastics in landfills is ultimately unsustainable and diminishes land resources fit for other uses of higher societal value. Incineration results in the release of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, and of other air pollutants, including carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxins.”
(read more here)
One of the ways to offset the negative ramifications of plastic is by limiting our dependence on “single use” plastic. Single use plastic are items that are designed for one time- packaging, grocery bags, and straws mainly.
Next month, a number of individuals and organizations will join together to take part in the “Plastic Free July”, which aims to help make us more mindful about our consumption of single use plastic and to take steps to curtail it.
The Plastic Free July website says:
“The challenge is quite simple. Attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July. “Single-use” includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging…basically anything that’s intended only to be used once and then discarded. If refusing ALL single-use plastic sounds too daunting this time, try the TOP 4 challenge (plastic bags, bottles, takeaway coffee cups & straws).”
Consider taking the challenge for a duration in July. Even if for a single day, being mindful of the things we throw away and taking steps to curtail that amount is an excellent way to care for God’s creation.