Eco-Friendly Gifts Blog: Solutions To Plastic Pollution
Solutions to plastic pollution are in high demand, as plastic continues to enter the natural environment at an increasing rate year on year.
In this blog, we're going to look at potential solutions to the plastic pollution crisis, both theoretical and real. With solutions forming in unlikely places, different ideas on how to deal with plastic pollutions are vast, and exciting.
At the end of the blog, we talk about the future of humanity, and how it will be affected by plastic pollution.
What Is Plastic Pollution?
Plastic pollution is the build up of plastic in the natural environment, both on land and in our oceans. Due to the international failure to deal with plastic properly, plastic still continues to enter our seas every day.
Conventional plastic is produced from fossil resources, and does not have the ability to biodegrade. We will be focusing on the latter characteristic to describe how plastic pollution is a crisis, and the potential solutions as well.
Plastic was first developed in 1907, with the invention of bakelite. Since the1950's, the volume of plastic being produced has grown to 300 million tonnes a year. Half of that amount is single use plastic, which is likely to end up in landfill, incineration or the natural environment.
Only 9% of all plastic has ever been recycled, which is why we haven't included it in the list of likely results.
Because conventional plastic, such as PET, cannot biodegrade, it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. Below the size of 5mm, these pieces of plastic are referred to as microplastics.
These microplastics enter the marine food chain at the lower levels, and through the trophic transfer of microplastics, build up at each trophic level. This results in large predators ingesting huge amounts of microplastics every year, and this includes us.
By 2050, current models predict that the mass of plastic in the ocean will outweigh the total mass of fish.
Solutions To Plastic Pollution
To start this list of solutions, we are going to go for the most exciting (in our opinion) method to deal with plastic.
We should say that the first thing to do when fighting plastic pollution, is to stop making plastic. It sounds stupid, but it's just common sense.
No matter how good the solutions are to deal with plastic pollution, they won't count for anything if in the same time the solution deals with plastic, the same amount of plastic is being produced.
If you were to walk into your kitchen, and the floor was flooded from a tap left running, what would you do first?
You would turn the tap off.
Only after that would you start to deal with the water on the kitchen floor.
Due to the power the plastic industry has over governments around the world, it is unlikely for fossil based plastic to stop being produced as a result of law enforcement.
It therefore falls to us, the consumer, to make choices that reduce the demand for non biodegradable fossil based plastic.
By the law of supply and demand, plastic producers will have to find more sustainable alternatives in order for their business to survive.
This is why it's so important to reduce and reuse at every possible opportunity.
Miranda Wang should be a household name. She's a rockstar in the world of dealing with plastic in environmentally friendly ways.
By using a liquid catalyst, she has developed a method of liquifying plastic into plastic free organic acids.
Plastics are made up of polymers, which are long chains of repeating sequences called monomers. Polymers can be thousands of monomers long.
These monomers, through the process of polymerisation, link together to form polymers.
Let's have a look at the monomer propylene.
The monomer of propylene, when linked together through polymerisation, forms the polymer polypropylene.
Miranda Wang's process involves converting these polymers into organic acids.
An end product from this process is adipic acid, which can be used to help form materials in clothing, electronic parts and automotive parts.
This means that new virgin plastic doesn't have to be formed from extracting crude oil.
In essence, it's an advanced method of recycling.
We previously mentioned that recycling is not a likely outcome for plastic, but with solutions like liquifying plastic being developed, recycling could be made far more efficient.
Biodegradable Alternatives To Non Biodegradable Plastic
Bioplastics are materials that are produced from renewable resources, have the ability to biodegrade, or both.
The inability of conventional plastic to biodegrade results in the formation of microplastics. Biodegradable bioplastics break down into products that are not damaging to the environment.
If a material is biodegradable, it can break down into CO2, water and biomass with the aid of microorganisms.
It is important to note that whilst biodegradable materials break down into natural component as opposed to microplastics, there is no time frame on the process.
Theoretically, a biodegradable coffee cup could be present in the natural environment for many years, breaking down at a very slow rate.
Taking this into consideration, it is important that biodegradable materials are disposed of properly, to ensure they don't end up in the natural environment. Ultimately, proper disposal combined with reduced volume of plastic being produced will stop plastic pollution.
It's no good just swapping non biodegradable plastics to biodegradable plastics, if the biodegradable plastics then become the pollutant, even if biodegradable plastics break down into natural components in a shorter stretch of time.
It's unacceptable to have any material polluting the natural environment, as any material still poses a threat to marine life.
In particular, plastics regardless of their capability to biodegrade have the ability to harbour microbes that spread disease.
Persistant organic pollutants are ever present in the environment, and they can bind to floating pieces of plastic debris, no matter if the plastic is biodegradable or not.
The main concern with the binding of pathogens to plastic, is the effect taken on coral reefs. Through the process of coral abrasion, disease can spread throughtout the coral reefs, slowly killing them.
When plastic debris comes into contact with coral reefs, they can potentially puncture the 'skin' of the coral, allowing the disease spreading microbes to enter the reef.
The point overall is that no matter the material, whether biodegradable or not, proper disposal that considers the environment will ultimately fight plastic pollution.
No, we're not tripping (excuse the pun). A species of mushroom, Aspergillus tubingensis, has the ability to degrade polyurethane.
These mushrooms potentially could be used to break down plastic waste in landfill, and plastic waste in other surroundings as well.
Plastic pollution is now one of society's greatest threats. From research showing that microplastics can kill immune cells, it is not unreasonable to think that many human lives could be cut short through immune systems being comprimised.
If human, and animal, immune systems are damaged to the point of not being able to defend against common colds, there could be mass casulties. Now that we all have microplastics in our bodies, there is no way of removing them currently.
When humanity starts to be effected by plastic pollution to the point of mass deaths, it will be far too late to do anything.
The only reason why fossil based non biodegradable plastic, being produced at its current rate, is remotely acceptable, is due to the media presenting it as such.
If plastic was invented today, and with it came the full list of upsides and downsides, it wouldn't be legal.
Imagine if you heard about this new 'plastic' invention, and that it can increase risks of cancer, fertility issues, build up in the natural environment, fill our oceans, kill mass numbers of animals, destroy coral reefs and contribute to the climate crisis, it would be banned internationally very quickly.
Through inventing the scam of recycling, plastic companies have managed to convince the population it is their fault for plastic pollution. This couldn't be further from the truth.
Microplastics have also been linked to numerous health issues affecting fertility. If these links are correct, it could render a large segment of the population unable to have children.
We need to stop producing non biodegradable plastics today, but the power of the plastic, and oil industries, are so great that governments won't take action.
Animals who are part of the food chain that support humans could die, cutting short humantity's food supply. With this lack of vital resources, wars will break out in developing countries first, and then developed countries.
We won't be able to drink water, as it will be so filled with plastic it has a quick impact on the immune system. Our most valuable resource is water, and entire new systems to remove microplastics from it will have to be put in place to defend the population.
In countries where there is no water cleaning systems, populations will suffer the consequences at a far quicker rate than those countries with clean water. Using ferrofluids to remove microplastics have been developed, and scalable systems using ferrofluids will need to be rolled out quickly.
Fossil based plastics contribute to the climate crisis, which is also another huge threat to humanity. With global warming comes the future of entire countries with no water supply, no food supply and the increased risk of storms destroying infrastructure.
Rising sea levels mean that coastal areas will be flooded, killing many people around the world.
The earth will be here long after humanity has wiped itself out, and through the process of evolution, plants and animals will develop to deal with the new plastic filled world they live in.
Plastic pollution and global warming have one thing in common: they are not currently effecting the richest in our society.
The notion of being environmentally friendly being linked to left wing politics is quite frankly stupid, and people will die because of it.
Dialisis could be used to clean blood of microplastics, if methods are developed.
Through populist right wing governments being propped up by unsustainable industries lobbying them, we now have a situation where speaking about global warming and plastic pollution is shot down with accusations of being snowflakes, lefties and hippies.
Until the middle and upper classes in developed countries start to die from compromised immune systems, natural disasters and wars, it is unlikely for anything to happen to mitigate the effects of plastic pollution and global warming.
The whole human race is sleepwalking into extinction, slowly walking towards the edge of the cliff. Through the genius of the ruling class, a large section of the population is defending polluters, through their right wing identity.
As our society dictates, the poor will always pay for the richest's mistakes, whether they like it or not.
This is our chernobyl.
Hundreds of years from now, this period of history won't be known as the silicon age, it will be known as the plastic age.