Plastic production is the problem, and not plastic waste

Plastic production is the problem, and not plastic waste
Fonte: Irish Examiner
The industry is happy to shift responsibility onto consumers, but recycling is futile when €200bn is being invested in increasing output, say Lili Fuhr and Jane Patton

We have long known that plastic in landfills and oceans is a growing environmental risk. More recently, we have come to understand that plastic is an urgent — even deadly — threat to public health, too.

And yet, global efforts to address the plastic crisis remain focused on the wrong end of the life cycle: Waste management.

The debate that will resume this month at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) is a case in point, because it will focus on “marine litter and micro-plastics”. These constitute just one small part of a much larger problem.

To be sure, plastic has been essential to global economic growth for decades. Its seemingly countless applications include life-saving medical devices, clothes, toys, various industrial and agricultural uses, and so on.

Some have even touted plastic as part of the solution to climate change, arguing, incorrectly, that it has a smaller carbon footprint than other materials. In fact, plastic releases significant greenhouse gases, like methane and ethylene, as it decomposes in the land and marine environments.

In fact, 99% of plastics are made from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and gas. And plastic is harmful to our bodies at every stage of its life cycle, from its extraction as a fossil fuel to its widespread use as a packaging for food, and on through the waste-management process (which includes landfills, recycling centres, and incinerators).

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