Author- Provincie Limburg/ Alf Mertens

Petrochemical Peril: From Plastic Dependence to a Circular Economy

July 31, 2023
2 mins read

It becomes increasingly clear that our plastic production habits are a significant contributor, as we peer into the abyss of environmental crises. Exacerbating climate change, the production of new plastic, a process reliant on fossil fuels, emits copious amounts greenhouse gases, . Nearly 400 million tons of new plastic are created , each year, much of which  will take hundreds of years to decompose , if at all.

So we could shift our focus from producing new plastics to effectively  recycling existing ones. Recycling old plastic not only reduces waste but also uses less energy compared to  manufacturing new plastic.  We might  pressure  the market  to innovate & invest more in recycling  technologies , by halting the production of new plastic.

Reducing the need for Virgin materials, improved plastic recycling  could offer the same versatility as new plastics. The job creation  potential  in the recycling  sector is immense, from an economic standpoint, potentially outweighing  losses from a decrease in new plastic production.

With  microplastics  now found from the  heights of Mount Everest to the depths of the Mariana Trench , the accumulation of plastic in our environment  is a sobering reality. It is high time  we questioned  the ecological morality of continuing  to produce materials that cause such  wide spread environmental harm. 

 A risk we can  mitigate  by halting new plastic production,  as prolonged exposure to plastic waste poses significant health risks to humans & wild life alike. According to a study  plastic particles may carry carcinogens & disrupt  hormones , a human health  risk  that demands serious consideration. We might reduce pollution & the hazards it presents  to marine life, if we transition to recycling old plastic.

Given the unequal  burden of plastic waste on marginalised  & impoverished communities , mass plastic production is not just an environmental issue, it is an ethical concern. It would be more socially responsible  to manage  the plastic  we have already produced than continue to generate more.

Weighing the convenience against costs , we should critically assess the societal need for new plastic production. Labeled as biodegradable , plastic  often requires specific conditions to decompose , & in a real world scenarios, they may act just like traditional plastic. Is this merely greenwashing that distracts from the true scale of the plastic problem or can we trust the ‘ biodegradable ‘ label? 

We might drive  demand for more sustainable  & less deceptive alternative to new plastic, if we prioritise recycling old plastic.  A reflection of our throwaway culture, the global plastic problem  represents our value system of preferring convenience over sustainability. It is our duty to question this norm & steer society towards a more sustainable model.

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Creating a wide array of products & significantly reducing the need for new plastic ,  as modern recycling techniques can reclaim most types of plastic. We can imagine a future where we achieve  a circular economy  for plastic , wherein every piece is reused & noting is wasted. 

According to numerous studies , a combination of plastic reduction , reuse , & recycling can considerably lower global carbon emissions. Are we willing to sacrifice our planet’s health for the fleeting convenience of new plastic products? 

We must foster an environment that supports this transition by encouraging businesses to adopt recycled  plastic  as an effective solution. The empowered governments can impose regulations  that could limit new plastic production & incentivize recycling.

We, as the citizens , have the responsibility to voice our concerns  & demand  a shift towards  more sustainable practices.  We have to critically examine  the perceived economic benefits  of new plastic production in the face of  overwhelming  environmental costs.

The resources spent on new plastic products should  be better used to address the plastic waste already suffocating our planet. Our reliance on plastic is a challenge to be  met unitedly so that a new society  free of plastic is formed or at least efforts are to be made to minimise the plastic menace!

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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