The world is at war with single-use plastic products, with some areas even banning certain products, like plastic bags. According to a new report by the Minderoo Foundation, only 20 companies produce over 50% of the world’s single-use plastic waste.
In 2019, 130 million metric tons of single-use plastic waste were generated. It is a staggering amount, and much of it ends up directly in our environment.
It costs governments millions of dollars to clean it up.
The production of these materials is also a major source of emissions. After all, the report found that the top 100 polymer producers (representing 90% of plastic waste) still rely on “virgin” (new) materials from fossil fuel sources.
It is essential that these companies look for more sustainable options.
What Are Single-Use Plastics?
A single-use plastic is a plastic product that is intended to be used one time. In many cases, these products function as single-use for hygienic reasons, such as disposable gloves and face masks or meat packaging.
For other cases, they are made for convenience like shopping bags or water bottles. In the vast majority of these cases, there are reusable or more sustainable options available.
For instance, I mention that plastic shopping bags are being banned in many regions. That is because you can use reusable shopping bags over and over. Or you can bring your own water bottle with you when you go out.
And as most people know, thanks to 2020, there are reusable face masks that you can wash.
The Demand Has Never Been Higher
It’s no secret that hygiene has become more important than ever before.
The necessity of facemasks through 2020 and 2021, has naturally lead to a surge in facemask production. And that is going to have a very big impact on the world, especially our oceans.
A report from 2020 expects that 1.56 billion facemasks will end up in our oceans within the year.
The pandemic has also had a huge effect on the restaurant industry. Eating out simply wasn’t an option for most. Instead, takeout became the go-to method of food. And to meet the safety standards, that meant a lot of plastic.
Of course, this is in addition to all of the single-use plastic that is normally expected. While the end of the pandemic is near, these products are not going anywhere.
More Pressure on Single-Use Plastic Manufacturers Is Necessary
One thing that the report called for as a possible solution is to have financial institutions start rejecting investment into these organizations and for governments to create new policies.
We have seen a tremendous shift in the corporate world as banks have begun to fund green projects instead of fossil fuel projects. And banks are being very transparent about it, like JP Morgan.
Yet, without strong backing from the government, it is unlikely any major changes will happen. Therefore, it is important that officials begin discussing the topic.
And of course, everyone should find reusable alternatives whenever possible. Reusable shopping bags, water bottles, face masks, and other everyday products exist and can even save you money. After all, you can reuse them.
Robert has been following and writing about environmental stories for years at GreenGeeks. He believes that highlighting environmentally friendly practices can help promote change in every household.