8.3billion tonnes of plastic has been produced since the 50s with the majority ending up in landfill or polluting the world’s continents and oceans. More than a third of the food sold in the EU now comes packaged in plastic and each of its 510 million residents produce about 31kg of plastic packaging waste a year. With plastic production expected to accelerate over the coming decades, it is rapidly creating an environmental crisis. We're worried about babies and toddlers being in danger of suffocating in plastic bags and yet, we've been complicit in doing exactly that. Polluting our environment with plastic that is, literally choking life on earth.
Change is on the horizon. More companies are reinventing plastics with additives that help them break down or making plastics that are biodegradable. The growing bioplastics industry, which uses starch or protein from plants like sugarcane to generate the basic hydrocarbon materials needed to create plastics. Some of these bioplastics are not biodegradable at all, but others – like polylactic acid (PLA) – can break down over time and some are compostable, meaning they disintegrate entirely rather than merely crumbling into smaller “microplastics”. A flip-side, is that plastics extend the shelf-life of food but, does this in turn create more of a throw-away approach to food itself, and thereby the plastic wrapping?
Is increasing investment in both our recycling infrastructure and innovative technologies designed to tackle waste - and our view on food waste in general - how we can effectively reduce the environmental harm of plastic?
Our throw-away society has to change. There is just a short window of time in which to act and be the ultimate agent of change if we are to avoid imperiling the systems that keep humanity, and other species, alive.