Oceans of Plastic

3 REASONS WHY WE SHOULDN’T PRODUCE MORE PLASTIC THAN WE NEED

―Manufacturing plastics requires the use of non-renewable resources. All plastics are derived from organic products and none are energy-efficient to produce. 

Synthesizing too much plastic from petroleum or gas is a waste of non-renewable natural resources. Nowadays, 8% of the global oil production is devoted to the making of so-called conventional plastics: 4% as feedstock and 4% during manufacture. As an example, producing a 1L plastic water bottle requires about a quarter of a liter of oil.

That plastics can now be made from a wide range of renewable feedstocks (corn, sugarcane, soy, canola, etc.) does not change anything. Bioplastics still consume fossil fuels for their making and often Continue reading

Oceans of plastic

THE INEFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF PLASTIC WASTE

You may first want to read How we filled the oceans with plastic in just over 60 years for some context about plastic waste.


The standard for the rational management of plastics and other materials through their life cycle is the concept of waste hierarchy. Loosely implemented by Western countries over the past forty years, it has led to more or less sustainable outcomes in Europe and the United States.

Lansink Ladder (1979)

B, C and D are waste recovery operations. According to the European Court of Justice, the “principal objective [of waste recovery] is that the waste serve a useful purpose in replacing other materials which would have had to be used for that purpose, thereby conserving natural resources” (Abfall Service AG, C-6/00, 2002, known as the “ASA” case). This is also the definition of the 2008 Waste Framework directive (see below). Source: www.recycling.com

The waste hierarchy concept was first formulated in Europe by the 1975 Waste Framework Directive (75/442/EEC), which encouraged the “reduction of quantities of certain wastes, the treatment of waste for its recycling and re-use, the recovery of raw materials and/or the production of energy from certain waste”. Refined by The Netherlands in 1979, the waste hierarchy became known as the Lansink Ladder, which ranked waste management options from the most to the least desirable for the environment.

Today, the sustainable logic that inspired the waste hierarchy and Lansink Ladder makes sense from an environmental and resource-efficiency perspective. Continue reading

Oceans of Plastic

HOW WE FILLED THE OCEANS WITH PLASTIC IN JUST OVER 60 YEARS

“Man-made items of debris are now found in marine habitats throughout the world, from the poles to the equator, from shorelines and estuaries to remote areas of the high seas, and from the sea surface to the ocean floor.”

Impacts of Marine Debris on Biodiversity, UNEP Report, 2012

Seabirds lead a precarious existence. Their marine habitats worldwide are littered with so much plastic waste that they often mistake plastic for food. Scientists recently estimated that by now 90% of all individual seabirds have ingested plastic debris, compared to only 5% in 1960Continue reading