Information about plastic
Awareness and knowledge make the difference,
hence Lansink’s ladder: it gives a clear image of the general policy in the Netherlands (and the same policy also commonly applies in Europe).
I left the Dutch version on the left in as I think it may be a slightly clearer illustration. The translation from top to bottom is: Prevention, Reuse, Recycling, Energy, Burning, Landfill.
Prevention is the most important step in the fight against waste. Small changes lead to a big difference. Bring your own sustainable bag with you when you go shopping (I have a few bags made from an old torn sheet for fruit, vegetables, bread rolls) in my linen bag. Sometimes it is pretty difficult to find unwrapped fruit and vegetables in the supermarket, but if you are a little alert, it can be done (for example, don’t buy 4 apples on a Styrofoam dish wrapped in plastic, but deliberately choose to put unwrapped apples in your own bag). It takes less than a month to get used to this and you become increasingly aware of the amount of unnecessary plastic that is used in supermarkets. There is a fantastic initiative in Australia: #leaveitontheshelf. If fruit or vegetables are pre-wrapped, you don’t buy them on principle. Thanks to this initiative, various supermarkets have started using less plastic wrapping materials. That is definitely possible here, too!
In many offices, disposable cups are the norm. In the Netherlands, 3000 million disposable cups are used and thrown away every year. There are studies that show that disposable cups are cheaper than using your own cup and washing it. These kinds of studies include the costs concerning time, washing-up liquid, the purchase of a dishwasher, the energy it uses, but fails to include the costs of the raw materials, production, transportation, etc. of the disposable cups. Additionally, most disposable cups are made of a combination of paper and plastic, which makes recycling complicated to impossible. The costs for the earth are not included in any calculations. Bringing your own mug or cup is always more sustainable than whatever kind of disposable cup.
Staying with the disposable cup: if you were to use it twice instead of once, this would cut the waste in half, so a 50% reduction. Disposable cups can easily be used 4 to 5 times. Calculating this on to the 3000 million ending up as waste in the Netherlands a year by using them twice instead of once, there still are 1500 million, to four times instead of once, the waste is still 750 million. This can easily be reduced to 0. Simply by saying NO to disposable!
Recycling is the next step in Lansink’s ladder. What baffles me is that the regulations for private persons differ from the regulations for companies with regard to waste (in the Netherlands; I would like to find out how this works in other countries). Private households manage their waste fairly well, glass is put in the glass container, plastic in the plastic container, vegetable, fruit and garden waste is put in the green container and as little as possible in the residual waste container. These regulations do not apply to companies. I suspect that this is one reason why the amount of recycled plastic is only adds up to 7 to 9% of the total amount of plastic worldwide, whereas this still belongs to the green, sustainable solutions. It is up to politics to make the same waste management rules that apply to private households applicable to companies as well.
The great thing about plastic is that it lasts a very long time
The useless thing about plastic is that it never degrades
There is no AWAY in THROWING AWAY ...
All of the plastic made since 1950 still exists today (apart from the amount that was/is burnt and affects the ozone layer or was/is used for energy) and the amount increases every day.
If we fail to act now, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish in 2050. The problem is still increasing; freight loads of plastic enter the ocean every day, where it falls apart in increasingly smaller particles under the influence of the salt water, the motion of the sea and sunlight and ends up as so-called microplastics. These microplastics are absorbed by shrimps and other small marine animals, which are gobbled up by bigger marine creatures and this makes a full circle. Very recent research shows that there are microplastics in tap water as well as in mineral (bottled) water and that plastic is now also found in people’s faeces.