How we get to eat our own plastic trash
Plastic is great for protecting food during transport and for keeping it fresh. But most plastic is only meant to be used once then thrown away. In 2018 alone, that added up to 144 million tonnes of plastic trash. Most of it is buried in landfills. But 8 million tonnes flows into the world’s oceans where it’s eaten by marine life – from tiny animal plankton to gigantic whales. The problem is, a large proportion of the fish we catch have been affected by plastic.
So that is how we get to eat our own plastic trash along with toxins such as phthalates and bisphenol A. These can damage hormone production and even cause cancer.
Consumers are driving change
It’s a perfect, if vicious, circle. And consumers are pointing the finger at retailers for wrapping food in single-use plastic packaging. The EU Commission and UN both responded with campaigns in May 2018 aimed at raising awareness. And in the wake of recent EU legislation calling for bans on plastic bags and single-use packaging, food producers and retailers the world over have been forced to respond. You could call it a ‘domino effect’.
Suddenly, there is an urgent demand for an alternative to plastic to protect our food and keep it fresh. But for egg producers and retailers, there is a readily available alternative. It’s biodegradable. Recyclable. Made from renewable sources. And it’s been tried and tested over the last 100 years or more. We are talking, of course, about moulded fibre egg boxes.
Consumers are driving the move away from plastic, and forcing retailers all over the world to come up with ways of reducing their plastic consumption – and pollution. Some of the initiatives below are already running. Others are still under development. See which ones you think make the most sense.
How hard is it to recycle plastic?
Currently, only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled. This is because:
Recycling plastic is extremely difficult. Just one PVC bottle in a batch of 10,000 PET bottles will ruin a melt. Sorting all the different types of plastic is hard. So the chances of that one bottle ruining a melt are high.
Recycling plastic is costly. The endresult will always be a low-grade plastic with limited application – and even less commercial value.
The domino effect
The UK: Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda are among 42 supermarkets to make plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
Germany & the Netherlands: Aldi, Edeka, Rewe and Ekoplaza, are cutting single-use plastic packaging.
France: the government has banned single-use plastic bags in supermarkets altogether.
The US: Dunking Donuts will be free of polystyrene cups by 2020. Kroger supermarkets will phase out plastic bags by 2025.
South America: Chile has become the first country in South America to ban single-use plastic bags.
Asia: Taiwan will ban all single-use plastic by 2030, and India has pledged to do the same by 2022.
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