Scale, Source and Solutions to the Plastic Problem
The great plastic pollution epidemic is upon us, and we're finally starting to react. For some groups, 2018 has been a watershed year in their attempts to gain traction for the plastic waste cause. While it was well-known that plastic can be slow to biodegrade and can be harmful to the oceans, 2018 has put the problem under a more intense spotlight.
At ReGen Waste, we've spent years working on how to improve recycling and we already process domestic and industrial plastics. Today, we want to explore the scale of the problem, a major source of plastic waste and how a solution can be found.
Like any global problem, it can be hard to truly understand the scale of the plastic problem and figures are being contested and reassessed regularly. earlier this year, National Geographic claimed that there are 9.2 billion tonnes of plastic on earth. Around 2/3 of plastic produced has since become waste (6.9 tonnes), of which only 8.7% has ever been recycled.
The problem has far-reaching consequences, with waste washing up in both poles. Even remote areas have been affected, in fact, Henderson Island an uninhabited island has the highest density of plastic waste on earth.
While 2018 has dragged ocean plastic to the fore, the problem doesn't always originate at sea. The sea may be the final sink, but the issue begins in homes and near rivers hundreds of miles in-land. Thoughtless littering, even when it involves the smallest objects can have devastating consequences for wildlife at sea.
When the waste returns to land it may be a few years old and well travelled, but it remains intact and as toxic as ever. BBC have highlighted plastic travelling from Spain to Iceland and from the UK to the Caribbean. Sometimes, the problem is more sinister than just personal negligence. Illegal waste companies treat the sea as a dumping ground, often resulting in fines for their clients. Learn more on the latter issue here.
Realistically, the solution the plastic problem is still in its infancy. Recycling the product will always be better than producing more, and at ReGen that is where we step in. We recycle plastic film, bottles and domestic hard plastics. The different types of plastic can make it difficult to process, but at ReGen Waste we use sophisticated technology to recycle tonnes of plastic annually.
A larger challenge will be driving down the production of plastic and reducing how much is in circulation. Some countries have begun adopting laws and raising taxes that discourage the use of plastic, but local changes have made a difference too. From stores in Amsterdam to villages in Chile, plastic materials are facing bans and being discontinued. Sustaining these changes in the coming years and rolling them out further gives the Earth's ocean a little bit more hope than it has had in previous decades.
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