I have just read an interesting article, in the Daily Mail, on the isolated and uncontacted tribes of the Amazon Forest. Two of the tribes, the Akuntsu and Kanoe have been seen by government workers and both were wearing jewellery made from discarded pieces of plastic! It is ironic that these people who live simple lives, in harmony with the environment and create no pollution, find a way to put our rubbish to some use. If only we could find ways of dealing with used plastic in the ‘educated’ world. Continue reading Amazonian Tribes should leave us feeling ashamed
Ok, so the first three in that list are in order of importance and recycling should be the last resort – but far better than disposal nether-the-less! So, recycling does have its merits.
My local Council is having a push on recycling paper, and they have sent everyone a leaflet with recycling facts, that I actually found quite interesting. For instance:
- If everyone in the town recycled 2 toilet roll tubes it would power the library for 11 days. I thought that was impressive!
- Recycling just 1 glossy magazine saves enough energy to boil a kettle 9 times.
- It only takes 7 days for a recycled newspaper to come back as a new newspaper.
Hopefully, this will encourage more paper recycling but I also saw online that there was the opportunity to recycle low grade plastics at the town’s refuge centre. So, I washed and saved all my low grade plastics, which I also separated into their relevant PE numbers, and took them along. Only to be told that they went in the non-recyclable waste (no washing or separation required there!). Apparently they are then incinerated, with everything else, to produce ‘green’ energy. I am not too sure how ‘green’ that energy will be!!!
Oh, we have a long way to go when it comes to managing plastic.
When we hear stats like “8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the world’s oceans each year” and “The UN environment agency estimates that up to 5 trillion single-use bags are consumed worldwide each year”, it is easy to feel that the problem with plastic is an insurmountable one and we (the concerned folk on planet Earth) are getting nowhere.
However, there are some really exciting projects out there that attempt to tackle the waste mountain and although relatively small scale at present there is no reason why they can’t be considered globally.
For instance, in Ghana, they have undertaken a study on how recycled plastic can be added to asphalt mixtures in a bid to get rid of both, their ever-increasing plastic waste and the countries many pothole-ridden roads. This has already been taken up in India where, in the Kerala municipality, at least 10% of new roads must contain plastic. According to Amole Bale, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed University, including plastic in road paving mixtures makes the new roads twice as strong as normal roads.
This is brilliant news, so why are we not using recycled plastic in asphalt in the UK? I don’t know the answer to that, so I have emailed Highways England, which looks after our roads for the Department for Transport, to ask them. I will post the reply when it arrives!
April’s Plastic Footprint
(tips and ideas to reduce plastic use)
- Use a bamboo or wheat straw toothbrush.
- Buy olive oil in a can and decant some into a glass and steel oil spray.
- Avoid tea bags by using a tea strainer
- Grow some of your own fruit and vegetables
- Use reusable natural fibre bags for shopping.
6.3 billion tonnes of Plastic have been produced since the 1950’s.
What are Biodegradable Plastics?- these are usually normal plastics that have additives, which cause them to decompose more quickly with Oxygen, light, water, and heat. However, they can (not always) break down to micro-plastics and leave toxic resins in the soil.
Only 9% of all Plastic produced has been recycled
We eat on average 114 pieces of plastic with every meal from household dust. That can equate to between 13,700 -68,400 plastic fibres eaten in a year. Ingesting plastic can damage lungs, kidneys and interfere with hormones.
40% of all plastic produced is used in packaging, half of which is used for food and drinks. How can we justify using packaging that lasts for generations to wrap our fresh food that lasts a few days?
What are microplastics? Microplastics are pieces of plastic that are less than 5mm in length that have come from the degradation of larger plastic material or the now banned microbeads, which are still used in toiletries in some parts of the world, as the ban only covered the EU. These small pieces of plastic are often eaten by animals and fish, making their way up the food chain to humans. We humans also directly ingest plastic, for example, a recent study found 93% of the water in plastic bottles contained microplastic.
Ingesting plastic can damage lungs, kidneys and interfere with hormones.
Bioplastics V Biodegradable plastics.
Biodegradable plastics can decompose to produce methane gas, that contributes to global warming. They can also breakdown into microplastics or toxic resins. Just because we can’t see them, doesn’t mean that they aren’t still there!
Bioplastics are made from plants and these tend to be compostable (see below). However, the plants must be grown, using up valuable resources in the soil, and potentially creating intensified farming with harmful pesticides and fertilizers. Bioplastic crops can prevent a food crop being grown, which in turn leads to higher food prices, to the detriment of poor families.
Castor Oil based plastic is normal plastic that has been made from castor oil instead of petroleum. There are arguments to suggest that using a renewable resource makes this plastic better for the environment. However, you have the same issues with intensive agriculture that you have with bioplastics but without the compostability factor.
Compostable means something that turns almost entirely into benign waste after a matter of months in a composter.