Are you among those that believe the world has a plastic problem? If so, you are probably of the mind that the problem lies mainly with waste. But what is the solution? Banning plastic surely isn’t it. Outlawing plastic straws and grocery bags has had little to no effect. No, the key to solving the plastic problem is better waste management.
I say that with confidence after analyzing both post-consumer and post-industrial plastics. When people talk about the plastic problem, they are not referring to industrial plastic waste. Why? Because no such problem exists in the industrial sector. Companies like Tennessee-based Seraphim Plastics have found a way to successfully recycle scrap industrial plastic to keep most of it out of landfills and incinerators.
The same cannot be said for consumer plastics. Most of the plastic trash we either burn or bury consists of consumer plastics, like food packaging for example. But we don’t necessarily have to throw it all away. We also do not have to use as much of it. We can find better ways to manage our waste and thereby reduce any problems plastic poses.
Why Plastic Bans Don’t Work
In recent years it has become en vogue to ban things like plastic straws and grocery bags. Yet straws and grocery bags are but a drop in the bucket when you consider the vast ocean of plastic trash the modern culture produces. Take plastic bans far enough to actually make a difference and you end up with a knock-on effect that only creates more problems.
For example, plastic food packaging is largely responsible for the modern concept of storing food over long periods of time. Relying on plastic packaging reduces food waste. It eliminates the need to visit the butcher, baker, and vegetable stand every day. Plastic packaging makes it possible to send tons of food overseas to needy people. What happens if we eliminate plastic food packaging?
Another example is the beloved electric vehicle (EV). If we are serious about making EVs mainstream, we need to live with the fact that doing so requires plastic. Without plastic, we cannot make a car light enough to run on batteries. That is just the reality.
The Solution Lies with Us
Companies like Seraphim Plastics demonstrate every single day that there are workable solutions for keeping plastic waste out of landfills and incinerators. But making those solutions work is up to us. We consumers can change the way we live our lives in order to facilitate better waste management.
It has been estimated that roughly 40% of all consumer plastic waste consists of plastic packaging. That is packaging for everything from food products to consumer goods. We can collectively reduce the need for plastic packaging by changing our purchase habits.
For example, we don’t have to buy water in plastic bottles. Bottled water isn’t any better or safer than municipal water from the tap. Bottlers have just convinced people that it is. Just think of how many plastic water bottles would no longer be needed if we all stopped paying for bottled water.
It Requires a Real Effort
In addition to changing our purchase habits, we can also change our attitudes about generating waste. We can make conscious decisions to produce less waste by recycling, reusing, repurposing, and not replacing the things we own until they are broken beyond repair. But it all takes effort – a real effort that also requires work and diligence.
The key to solving the plastic problem is better waste management. It is not banning things like straws and grocery bags. Will we ever learn?