• Ankit Singhal

Plastic is so cheap that making new is cheaper than recycling it. Changing that will save the planet

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

Imagine a world without plastic for a day. Well, the world will crumble if you stop its use all of a sudden because we are so used to it. Almost all industries use it, our daily lives depend on it. You take a sip from a drink from the plastic straw, enjoy the savory taste of chips packed in plastic bags and the freshness of juices in the plastic bottles. But this very useful material is putting a toll on the environment that if we don’t act now, we will have made an irreparable and irreversible damage to the environment and ecosystem thereby making earth uninhabitable for all.

Why plastic is bad for the environment you might ask? For the obvious reasons that to decompose it, it takes years and not just one or two but many. Secondly, it decomposes into smaller nano-particles which get into the bodies of marine animals. The question arises how about burning the plastic but the problem with this is that burning plastic releases a lot of harmful gases to the environment. It is a matter of utmost worrisome that a big block of ocean debris consisting mostly of plastic waste called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch estimated to be the size of Texas, US is found in the ocean.

How did we come to this? Every wondered! Here is how:

Plastic is manufactured from crude oil by petrochemical companies as one of the byproducts. Now this plastic is used by consumer goods and other companies in the form of packaging etc. These plastic items on consumption are discarded by the consumers/users which end up as waste in landfills or oceans. Since the cost of plastic production is much less than the cost of recycling the plastic, there is no value attached to the plastic waste and it gets into the water bodies and ultimately harms the environment.

Current situation where plastic waste is of no value hence gets discarded

Now, what if, the cost of plastic production is increased (either by govt imposing taxes or these handful petrochemical companies on environmental concerns increase the price marginally such that it does not heavily impact the revenue due to plastic production). The cost of plastic production now becomes more expensive than cost of recycling. Now when this happens, the plastic becomes valuable just like metal which will be collected and recycled in a recycling plant. The consumer goods and other companies will be at advantage to use recycled plastic or may be even set up recycling plant.

Solving the plastic waste menace

This is beneficial in several ways firstly, we will be recycling the plastic which now ends up in the ocean and landfills. So no new plastic waste will be generated. Secondly, a whole new industry will be created in plastic waste collection, distribution and recycling offering more jobs. This is what we call Closing the Loop on Plastic. This very thought is reflected in this TED Talk by Andrew Forrest.

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