Plastic was once celebrated as the wonder material of the future. But the persistent problems of plastic pollution have tarnished it's reputation.
Today we are faced with the prospect of microplastics threatening our health and massive quantities of plastic waste that cannot be feasibly reused.
Plastic: The Amazing Material that Never Goes Away
It may seem a bit quaint and naïve today, but plastic was once considered a “wonder” material. It was discovered in the 1950s and was named as a wonder material because of its versatile attributes. However, plastic has developed a perception of being the biggest pollutant on earth.
In 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic made from formaldehyde and phenol. Bakelite, a durable and heat-resistant material, revolutionized the manufacturing industry and sparked the growth of plastics.
In the decades following, various types of plastics were developed for different applications. During World War II, for example, plastics played a vital role in military efforts due to their versatility and lightweight nature. After the war, the demand for plastics soared as they found their way into numerous consumer products, including packaging, appliances, automobiles, and more.
And the 1950s and 1960s marked a period of significant plastic innovation, with the introduction of polyethylene, polypropylene, and other high-performance plastics. This era also witnessed the increased use of single-use plastics like beverage bottles and packaging materials, which contributed to the growth of the plastics industry - and pollution.
The Problem of Plastic
Urgent concerns about plastic pollution and its environmental impacts have emerged over the last few decades. Efforts to address these challenges have included recycling initiatives, bans on certain plastic products, and the development of biodegradable and eco-friendly alternatives.
Today, plastic continues to be a ubiquitous and versatile material, but there is a growing emphasis on reducing plastic waste, promoting sustainable alternatives, and improving recycling systems to mitigate its environmental footprint.
The primary problem is that most plastics tend to hang around for a long time. In other words, the very qualities that make them so desirable for packaging and product construction also means that they do not deteriorate once disposed of.
At least, not for a few centuries anyway...
Plastic bags, for example, are notorious for their persistence in the environment. They can take hundreds of years to break down, causing harm to wildlife and ecosystems. Similarly, Styrofoam is problematic because it breaks into small pieces easily, becoming a major source of microplastic pollution.
Among various types of plastics, one that is often considered a particularly problematic pollutant is single-use plastics, especially those that are not easily recyclable or biodegradable. Single-use plastics are designed for a short lifespan and are typically discarded after a single use, contributing to a significant amount of waste.
Plastic items like plastic bags, straws, disposable cutlery, and expanded polystyrene foam (commonly known as Styrofoam) are frequently cited as some of the worst pollutants. These items are lightweight, easily transported by wind and water, and tend to end up in waterways, oceans, and natural environments.
We've put together this infographic to help illustrate the state of plastic pollution and the problems it presents.
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Potential Solutions for Plastic Pollution
The good news is that, while plastic pollution is still a pressing problem for the planet, there are many innovations taking place to address the issues around waste plastic disposal. Some of them include:
Plastic Bans: Banning plastic outright could be the ultimate solution for plastic pollution.
- Bioplastics: Bioplastics are made from renewable resources and are biodegradable.
Enzymatic Recycling: Enzymatic recycling is a process that uses enzymes to break down plastics into their constituent parts. These parts can then be used to create new products.
Green Tech and Plastic Roads: Green tech and plastic roads are two innovative solutions that can help reduce plastic pollution. Green tech involves using plants to clean up polluted areas, while plastic roads involve using recycled plastic to create roads.
Ocean Cleanup: The Ocean Cleanup is a non-profit organization that is working to remove plastic from the world’s oceans. They have developed a system that uses floating barriers to collect plastic waste.
While there is a notable media push decrying the continued use of Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - the most commonly used plastic for making water bottles - the focus should not solely be on a single type of plastic. Instead, we should be working on reducing overall plastic product consumption, improving waste management practices, and promoting sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics.
The good news is that major steps are being taken to reduce and eliminate plastic packaging, for example, and the overall use of plastic in product manufacturing. In addition, there are incredible gains being made in the reuse and environmentally safe disposal of all the existing waste plastic.
Although plastic will never disappear completely, it's production, usage, and disposal will evolve dramatically.
Recycling Made Easy with Junk King
There is a truly simple and efficient alternative to "doing your own" recycling and that's calling Junk King.
Junk King provides professional junk hauling services to remove recyclable items such as appliances like refrigerators, freezers, and ovens, as well as bulk plastic junk and more. We have the equipment and know-how for removing and properly disposing of all types of junk items and debris.
Our professional and insured junk and waste disposal team will show up at your home or office and we'll call 15 to 30 minutes before we arrive on site and we’ll give you a free estimate based on how much room your items take up in our truck. You point and we haul your old junk items and waste materials into our junk removal trucks, with no hidden fees.
So, are you ready to get rid of that old junk or plastic waste? It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.
You make an appointment by booking online above or by calling 1.888.888.JUNK (5865).