Until a few weeks ago, we heard about the fight against waste, reusable bags and the reduction in plastic packaging every day. The public was informed of the microplastic pollution in the oceans, a danger to fauna, flora and humans. A Canadian study told us in 2019 that we swallow, on average, the equivalent of 52,000 such particles each year, while The Ellen McArthur Foundation‘s projections estimated that by 2050, there would be more plastic than fish in the ocean.
Although consumers are responsible for these staggering figures, many countries have mobilized a real plastic hunt that seems to be gradually gaining momentum around the world.
With the Covid-19, we will be faced with an accumulation of billions of masks and single-use medical equipment. This, at a time when sorting centres have slowed down or stopped, and waste dumps are multiplying in some countries. With the closure of restaurants, disposables are coming back to fashion, leading to increased consumption of packaged products sold in supermarkets. Home deliveries or takeaway orders favour the use of single-use plastic packaging. The Covid-19 crisis could well have a ‘positive’ effect on the plastic industry.
However, we have the opportunity to do otherwise. Singapore, for example, recommends that takeaway orders be placed in containers to allow restaurants to serve customers directly without using disposable tableware. It’s a sensible rule that is in line with Singapore’s logic and its zero waste masterplan. This initiative limits the generation of secondary microplastics, which account for the bulk of plastic pollution. After all, a bottle of water on the shoreline or a plastic bag carried by the waves is waste that will take between 100 and 1,000 years to decompose, and 400 years for the more tenacious, to infinity for the immortal.
The primary microplastics come essentially from our washing machines – from laundry detergents and fabric softeners. Clothes are the primary source of this pollution, especially those made from synthetic materials that release particles each time they are washed, into the laundry water. Also, from the friction of vehicle tyres against the asphalt while driving. And finally, from the cosmetic products we use, in which plastic microbeads are added. Scrubs, shower gels, exfoliating products and toothpaste release microplastics into the pipes, just as when washing clothes. In sewage treatment plants, despite some ongoing research programmes, wastewater treatment cannot tackle this invisible pollution because of the minute size of the microplastics. So, for the time being, they are condemned to remain in the water we have used, until they are discharged into rivers, seas, oceans…
Individually, we can replace the traditional tube of toothpaste with tablets, ban plastic bottles, buy cotton clothing instead of synthetic. And, are clothing softeners really indispensable? There are so many little things each of us can do to minimize plastic pollution.
Collectively, we can follow the example of resilience. In France, when faced with a shortage of masks, the creativity of households made it possible to make reusable cotton face masks with up to 20 filters.
Companies and their purchasing departments have a major role to play in turning to virtuous solutions or to simply avoid the use of plastic. We have the choice to avoid plastic and to fight against plastic pollution, and there are plenty of examples.
In fact, “The best plastic is the one we don’t consume!”
As for the plastic we cannot avoid, a French startup has developed a revolutionary technology that makes it possible to recycle one of the world’s most widely used plastics infinitely, as easily as with glass.
Remember, you’re part of the solution and every one of us can play a huge role. It starts with awareness and a shift in our mindset such that small changes we make become the biggest ones in the fight against plastic.
At Ergapolis, we care about keeping our planet healthy and pollution-free. If you have any questions or suggestions regarding plastic pollution and how you can fight against plastic waste, do get in touch.
You can also visit our website to learn more about what we do.