Plastic Packaging and the Environment
There is no doubt that plastic is portrayed in a negative light in comparison to other packaging materials. They are said to cause environmental degradation as well as pollution. But did you know that there are positive effects of using plastic to pack your items?
Some of these reasons are based on research and studies that have been carried out by experts. Findings show that use of plastic as package materials has resulted in a reduction of air pollution.
Experts have discovered that if the plastic packaging were absent, there would also be an increase in emission of greenhouse gases, contributing to the ever-increasing global warming effect.
Plastic material is, to say the least, less bulky than some of its alternatives, making it easy to transport from one place to another. The material is also durable to protect the item it carries from the pressure of transport. Another aspect that cannot go unmentioned is the fact that plastic materials are more economical in the long run because a large number can be transported in one trip. In this way, fewer cars are used in this process which means that there are less exhaust fume emissions on our roads to the environment.
Why do we use single-use plastic?
You will be delighted to know that most of these materials can either be reused or recycled- there is no true "single-use" plastic. Others can also be used as a source of energy.
When an item is designed to be single-use, they often weigh less, making them easy to transport. Fewer vehicles are used to carry foods as well as beverages. Over the years, food wastage has reduced due to use of plastic materials to pack the food. The cars are fewer in number which leads to fewer emissions that would increase the amount of air pollution in our environment. Based on this knowledge, plastic packaging and environmental interaction is not a bad thing after all.
The "single-use" packaging of fruit and other food items allows usto buy clean food which is germ-free. In this case, fewer resources are used to maintain food freshness and quality. Many of the food items available for sale would spoil within a short time if left unpackaged. The increase in shelf life has largely increased the choice of items we have available on our supermarket shelves. As a result, supermarkets become more profitable, which contributes to a healthy economy. In a domestic setting, plastic packaging has proved instrumental because you can store food away from germs which extend its freshness and taste, at the same time reducing food waste.
Companies adopting this technology has a vast variety of benefits. For example, you can purchase clean water to drink because it is well packed in a clean bottle. Using a non-synthetic material to package the same water would require a lot of research, time and a lot of resources.
It is hard to imagine the number of germs that the food we eat would pick up from the environment if left unpackaged. A lot of money and resources would be used to treat illnesses, and some of these germ-related illnesses may lead to death.
For example, if you leave raw chicken exposed to other types of food, you risk contamination and food poisoning. Plastic bags are, therefore, instrumental in packing raw meat such as chicken.
Does plastic packaging use a lot of energy?
You will be surprised to know that this type of energy is more economical compared to non-synthetic materials. The energy is approximately half of what would originally have been used. Plastic is light, and this property makes it even more manageable during transit as well as the items that have been packaged.
Plastic material manufacturers and handlers are determined to ensure that they use as little energy as possible.
Another of their primary goals is to provide that there is the minimal release of carbon dioxide to the environment. Many of them are subject to an agreement (Climate Change). Many of the enterprises were able to successfully satisfy the expectations of the agreement when it was first evaluated, a process that was concluded in December 2014.
Does the mechanism of plastic packaging prove efficient?
The government of the United Kingdom has clearly described how its citizens should handle waste. One of those concepts includes a prevention method- the waste hierarchy that works to minimise waste mishandling which would result in environmental pollution. The plastic industry has been very proactive in taking new steps to ensure that the production and use of their products do not degrade the environment in any way. Companies have strict regulations that allow them to attain the set goals making the industry very successful in its operations.
Re-use: Many plastic materials are designed to last a long time. In most cases, the items can be reused for different purposes. For instance, you can reuse a bag to carry other items as opposed to what it initially contained. In this way, many "single-use" plastic can receive a second chance to be useful.
Recycle: Plastics is more efficient to be recycled because they can be used after being converted to other items. The items resulting from this process are of high economic value. For example, a plastic bottle can be recycled into a carrier bag, or perhaps another bottle!
Recovery:If you need to get rid of the plastic permanently, measures have already been put in place to ensure that the items are used to generate energy instead of being disposed into the environment.
Disposal: There are strict rules that govern environmental conservation. Despite strict regulations, 26% of our plastic wastes are put in a landfill which is not advisable.
How does plastic end up in the ocean?
Measures are to be taken to control this situation. Many of the materials are those littered on land which is then swept into the ocean. The simple technique of providing litter bins can prove to be an effective method of deterring this behaviour. Educate people on the importance of proper litter disposal in response to environmental conservation.
A significant amount of water pollutants are a result of what was blown into the water surface from the nearby places.
Where do plastic materials in the ocean come from?
From studies, we see that most of these synthetics originate from a couple of countries such as Asia. Countries such as China, Egypt, Malaysia, and Vietnam- contributing to an approximate 80% of the waste found in the sea. You will be surprised to know that 98% of pollution is caused by regions aside from UK and Europe.
Based on UN research, many people are still not able to access services that allow for them to have their trash collected and well managed. Most people have no choice but to dispose of their waste in locations which are strategically positioned near the sea or around waterways. Now it's easy to understand how the rubbish ends up in the water.
How can I stop plastic entering the ocean?
Waste material has no eyes or ears. It will get into the water if set in that path. Litter bins are one of the most effective methods for minimising water pollution.
- Any litter on the ground should be picked and put in the litter bin.
- When the litter bins are full, try and be a good person and carry any unwanted waste to a nearby bin or carry it to your house.
How is the plastic industry helping?
Many steps have been taken to educate the public on proper waste management. The industry strives to minimise garbage in the environment. Many NGOs and organisations offer charity support to the society as part of the process as well. The government has to approve these measures to ensure they are legal and will be of benefit to the community as opposed to causing damage.
People are educated on the importance of a clean marine environment. For Fish’s Sake (#FFSLDN) is one of these initiatives that has proved to be successful. The people are empowered with knowledge on the connection between polluting the environment and how it finds its way to the seawater or other water bodies. Creativity is vital in the education process. The concept is revolved around a mechanism that looks to promote unity in the society. The idea was adopted in 2007 and people were provided with trash cans, artwork and the people have a great curiosity and a desire to implement the concept.
Neat Street is aimed at ensuring that our streets remain spotlessly clean and you may be surprised to find that the plastic industry is the brains behind the idea. The experiment first began on Villiers Street. Campaigns have been done to make people more aware of their environment and encourage them to use trash cans for waste disposal. Cigarettes litter bins have proven to be a successful venture. Their users can dispose of their remains, and the bins were adopted in many other countries. The technique was successful because cigarette littering was cut down.
Many have come together to encourage campaigns to educate on waste disposal and management. The Marine Conservation Society has collaborated with the British Plastic Federation and PlasticsEurope to providing guidelines for environmental conservation.
Bincentives is a project carried forward by the school that won the challenge that took place to educate about environmental degradation. The program passes the conservation messages using emojis and encourages students to create their own version. As the students practice the expectations of their schedule, they receive rewards for their hard work.
What should we do about the plastic in the ocean?
Microplastic such as tyres, fabric, and paint are a minor source of pollution to the sea. The problem may seem small, but BPF is keen on eradicating occurrence of the minor contamination.There are strict rules to govern the implementation of this concept. The process includes setting up a workstation and teaching the workforce on their roles and responsibilities. Keen interest is taken to get rid of these minimal pollution occurrences. The UK is one of the beneficiaries of the project.
BPF and MCS came up with a plan that was funded by the plastic industry and brought on board many organisations to help take care of the waste crisis at sea. The project also has an ideal concept that helps to deliver information to the public on environmental conservation. The industry that produces plastic is determined to carry out successful waste management in the UK. However, it is essential to know that many trash components that are in the sea water have their origin from many other places. It is important to focus on waste management of the external environment because its impact is directly related to the UK.
Measures to take during Sea Clean-Up
It is important to consult on any steps taken to reduce waste occurrence in the sea. Dumping should be a thing of the past because most of the trash ends up in the ocean. You can educate the public on measures and the importance of environmental conservation.
Remember, adopting the use of non-synthetic materials in place of plastics is not necessarily a good idea. Studies have shown that it would be more effective to work on waste management instead. Research done by German experts saw that garbage in our environment would still not reduce in the event of the shift.
Other ways of research that have been carried out in Australia show that having new forms of packaging have increased waste in the environment despite the country having adopted a Deposit Return Scheme.
Are there items that are more prone to littering?
The behaviour of dropping litter in an environment is strictly a habit. However, some items such as cans are more likely to be dropped on the floor as compared to bottles. The finding is based on a study conducted by the Coca-Cola Company. Some properties such as the bottle's ability to be used for other purposes is one of the primary reasons why people are not likely to leave them lying around. Small items such as gum and cigarettes are more prone to littering as compared to others such as bottles.
Many countries all over the world have adopted rules and regulations that warn against littering. Violation of these rules will cause you to pay a considerable fine.
Do we need more bins?
Research shows that most people litter because there are no litter bins or the bins are far away from the proximity of the person who wants to dispose of an item. Consider teaching people on the importance of using bins. Make them easily identifiable in the society. Measures should be taken to increase the number of bins to make them more effective.
You will be surprised to know that most people are likely to drop litter when they are walking or travelling alone as compared to when they are moving in the company of others.
Is bio-degradable packaging effective?
The study shows that they are not effective because they do not meet the set standards that are key for them to work well when integrated into society. One of this conditions is extreme temperatures.
The UN findings stipulate that the materials will increase waste in the environment as many of the people claim that the environment will break down the materials over a period. The best way to use these materials is in homes where they can be used as parts of units such as compost units. The materials will reduce food contamination in the home.
Why we don't use more bio-degradable packaging?
The items are of high economic value. You will be doing the environment great justice by recycling the materials, and when they are too used to be used again, they can be taken to a waste plant for proper disposal. Improper littering is one of the leading causes of this pollution crisis in the environment. Most of the materials that are said to be biodegradable do not have the correct properties to decompose when submerged in seawater.
There is caution when using these materials; it is essential to recognise that the resulting product after passing through a waste plant cannot be used in any other way. Proper measures need to be adopted to deal with this challenge.
As one of the leading supplier of vacuum-formed protective packaging, Plastics by Design Ltd are dedicated to to protecting the environment. All of the plastic we use to produce our products can be re-used or recycled to maximise their working efficiency. If you would like more information regarding this, please feel free to contact us via 01380 827022 or use the contact form below.