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Have you wondered about what happens to all the plastic stuff once you throw them away?
While it’s a common belief that most plastics end up in the recycling factory close to your locality, the reality is far from the truth. There are so many facets behind what truly happens to the plastics we leave behind.
On the one hand, we are so accustomed to plastics and how easier it has made our lives. From toothbrushes and shampoo bottles to food containers, our lives revolve around plastic.
Let’s pause for a moment and address where the plastic goes once we discard and begin with the plastic waste we generate.
Some staggering discoveries were made in the first-ever global analysis made with all plastics in a peer-reviewed journal Science Advances in 2017. The researchers conducted an in-depth analysis of the amount of plastic produced since 1950. They concluded that 8.3 million tons of plastic are produced, of which 6.3 million tons are plastic waste. Among this waste, only a bare 9% has been recycled!
Let’s take a minute to let that sink in.
With just a few percentages of the plastic getting recycled, most of it is ending up in lands and water bodies. This ends up harming the environment more. It’s found that the huge majority of the plastic waste, which comprises about 79% of the plastic produced, is lying around in the landfills and oceans.
The resins and fibers used in the manufacturing of the plastics were 7800 metric tons from 1950 to 2015. One surprising fact to note is that half of this quantity was manufactured in just the past 13 years. This shows the increase in plastics manufacturing, which means an increase in plastic produced.
This is the biggest question we need to ask. If we keep on increasing the production of plastics, what does it mean for our world? If only 9% of the plastic is getting recycled, where do the remaining end up?
Here’s one massive reality check we all need. Even those plastics that are getting recycled aren’t conducted inside the countries. Most of the plastic waste from the US are shipped to the poorest countries of the world. This is done because of cheap labor without any care about the consequence of public health and the environment.
In 2019, a team of Guardian reporters from 11 different countries found that America shipped 68,000 shipping containers of plastic waste in the last year to developing countries that are mismanaging more than 70% of their own plastic waste.
Since some of these countries aren’t adept at managing their local waste and as the volume of plastic waste is increasing, thousands of tons of plastic is getting stranded in the US now. These grave loopholes in the recycling system of even the most developed countries raise the alarm bells of the environment.
While this is the case of recycled plastic, the vast majority that isn’t getting recycled are ending up in landfills and oceans polluting the environment. The mismanaged plastic from the lands enters the rivers, which eventually gets dumped in the oceans. According to a study by National Geographic, every year, 9 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean.
If we don’t do something, there will be a whopping 12 billion metric tons of plastic in landfills by the year 2050!
Even with the current 4.9 billion tons of plastic waste, the consequences of environmental degradation are alarming. If this number triples, we would be facing many problems that we haven’t imagined.
Becoming aware of the harm we are causing to the environment is the first step to a wake-up call. Stringent government reforms and management regulations are needed. There is a need to increase plastic recycling at proper, controlled conditions without causing any more damage to the environment. There is also a need for more plastic recycling plants worldwide to streamline and reduce the amount of plastic waste.
Many private companies and nations are coming together to create regulations and reforms for plastic waste. While that’s a good place to start, there is still a need for awareness among the common public and a distinct reduction in plastic usage to save our world.
About Plastic Collectors: At Plastic Collectors, we are striving to reduce plastic waste in the world while simultaneously addressing poverty issues. We use reward programs for plastic collectors with numerous benefits that compensate well enough for their efforts. Let’s join hands to make the world a better place! Click here to know more about how you can make a difference.