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November 24, 2017

Local Transition:

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Potato Day Sat 28 Jan 2017 -

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sewing Cafe Saturday 27th November -

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Plastic

Plastic made from hydrocarbons found in oil and natural gas, has been in use since the early 1900s. Before that date natural materials such as plant cellulose and rubber have been used to make plastic type material.

There is a great deal of controversy around plastic. Most environmentalists would say, the fact that plastic does not biodegrade makes it one of the worst polluting materials of land and seas. Also we do not know how long plastic takes to break down and when it does, the particles, when ingested, are still toxic. Chemicals contained in plastics are another problem: Bis phenol A (BPA) is a chemical used during the manufacturing of certain hard, clear plastics. It mimics the hormone oestrogen and disrupts reproductive functions. Also of concern are phthalates, which give plastic its pliable, flexible properties, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. Studies link both to hormone and reproductive-system damage.

Still some people see plastic as environmentally friendly because it takes up less space in landfill than paper and if incinerated with other waste, it helps the whole burn more efficiently. The fact that plastic is light, easily shaped, strong and, at present, inexpensive, has also made it an invaluable material for many modern day applications.

Plastic in health care

The many uses of plastic in health care include everything from parts of MRI machines to artificial hips and knees and many disposable sterile applications such as hypodermic needles and intravenous blood bags.

In the Home

Plastic containers have also been invaluable for keeping foodstuff fresh as well as making strong, child-resistant bottles for bleaches and other toxic liquids.

In Space

Astronauts are exposed to high levels of radiation but plastics have been developed that can protect them from this exposure. NASA actually used a 3D printer to make 70 parts for the new space Rover vehicle using thermoplastics which are lightweight but very strong.

 

Pollution

Plastic bags are the commonest source of plastic pollution. The facts are discussed in this video: A world without plastic bags

Pros and cons

Plastic bags are undeniable convenient and it takes up to 91% less energy to recycle a pound of plastic than it takes to recycle a pound of paper. Although recycling rates are low for both types of bag.

On the other hand 1 trillion bags are used world wide annually many of which end up in our oceans killing animals of every size. Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it! If not strangling baby turtles and albatross’ plastic bags are being pulverised and taken into the food chain which ends with us. This is a dangerous and unnecessary use of a FINITE resource.

These bags make up most of our litter. San Francisco had a clean up effort, and figured out that in the end, it cost them 17 cents to clean up one plastic bag. Multiplied by 100 billion, you end up with 1.7 trillion dollars spent cleaning up plastic bags in the US.

Even if recycled, "recycling" a plastic bag means that the bags are shipped to a foreign country with lax to non-existent "recycling policy," where they are just burnt instead.

Bag tax cuts down their use but maybe we just need to stop making them. This would cost millions of jobs but maybe we can replace them with green sustainable employment instead of letting the loss of jobs prevent us making an environmentally sound decision.

Ways to deal with plastic waste

Bottle Recycling plant

The debate around recycling of plastic v incineration is complicated but as the price of oil has fallen, it has dragged down the cost of virgin plastic. In many areas it now costs more to recycle old plastic than to make new containers. This has had ripple effects across the recycling industry with recycling business’ closing plants. The other problem is that many places only collect one or two types of plastic. Areas that collect all plastics sometimes end up sending some to landfill because the returns are too low to make recycling it all economical.

Incineration: waste to energy

Waste to energy (WTE) which means burning waste to generate electricity, is seen by some as a promising option. In addition to disposing of garbage and reducing landfill space, WTE generates 500kw of electricity per ton of waste.

WTE plants are costly to construct, and companies often offset this by negotiating long-term contracts with cities. Once incineration becomes an area's mode of waste management, the incentive on the local authority will be to ensure enough waste is produced to avoid fees to the contractors, not to ensure that it's reduced.

There is though a side effect from incineration. Dioxin, mercury, lead and other toxins, whether they come out the chimney into the air, are captured, or end up in the left over ash, are still there and we are all already taking in dangerous levels of dioxins.

CO2 and other climate change causing gasses are also released by burning but many organic substances left in landfill also release these harmful gasses.

Burying the problem: landfill
Landfills are the most common and economical waste management solution.

Environmentally, of course, landfills have a terrible reputation, and have been cited for problems including groundwater contamination and air pollution. Also many of the things we see in landfills could have been reused or recycled.

Conclusion

Despite a handful of scientists in Britain and Sweden having recently suggested that incineration is better for the environment than recycling, Friends of the Earth disagree and are supported in this view by most environmental scientists. This issue was recently examined by the UK Government’s Strategy Unit. Following a long and detailed study, it concluded that the best way to deal with our waste was to dramatically improve our recycling rates. There is of course the option of ceasing production of non essential plastics in the first place.

See our article on hemp which offers some possible solutions to the amount of plastic we produce as well as providing planet saving environmental alternatives for farmers, new materials for building, car parts and many other applications.

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