Banning the material that creates our plastic problem won’t solve it

Our greedy dependence on plastic has led us to a man-made environmental crisis that is still growing. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images
Our greedy dependence on plastic has led us to a man-made environmental crisis that is still growing. Picture: iStock/Gallo Images

The world has entered a new wave of environmental awareness coupled with newer and more drastic means of reducing our impact on the natural world.

“We need to see a far more holistic approach to tackling this. I want to challenge retailers and producers to take the lead and make explicit commitments to limit their contribution to the problem of plastic pollution‚” former environment minister Valli Moosa had lamented the lack of progress made by local companies to reduce the torrent of plastic trash flowing into the sea he said in a statement ahead of Earth Day earlier this year.

Single-use plastic has experienced remarkable development for a cause: it is inexpensive, light weight and extremely useful and convenient. Plastic has also enabled the rise of global mass retail products and facilitated the globalisation of the food industry.

Plastic packaging enables us to enjoy all sorts of food packaged and distributed across the world year-round as foods are kept fresh for much longer than ever before.

In contrast to Ivo Vegter’s article, Save the planet: Choose plastic shopping bags he notes that local retailer. Pick n Pay is piloting a compostable bag to replace single-use plastic carrier bags, and Spar has launched a “stop plastic” campaign. Despite the alternatives to plastic existing, none are a flawless substitute.

Paul Laudicina provided a poit of view in Forbes online recently, stating that glass keeps foods fresh but its breakability makes for more difficult transport. And glass is much heavier than plastic and requires more carbon emissions to ship it around the world.

Another example referenced to an article by The Guardian, McDonald’s in the UK had set out to experimenting with paper straws in several markets that are biodegradable, unlike plastic, Bioplastics are an emerging alternative that warrant further exploration.

Entrepreneurship and innovation in this area is already gathering steam with Polish manufacturers like Biotrem, which make bioplastic and wheat bran tableware and cutlery that is edible and will compost within 30 days, for instance.

Therefore in efforts to curb this exponential rise in use of plastics, various pledges spoke about this year was the issue of plastics in our oceans which received so much attention on a global scale, under the umbrella organisation representing the entire South African plastics value chain, signed The Declaration of the Global Plastics Associations for Solutions on Marine Litter, to have developed an innovative, efficient and cost-effective way for businesses to work towards a cleaner and more sustainable future.

Big brands – from Coca-Cola to Kellogg’s reported that they aimed to cut all plastic waste from their operations in what the United Nations called the most ambitious effort yet to fight plastic pollution. Their ingenuity is a hallmark to public pressure mounting on manufacturers and retailers to trim the overflow of plastic packaging that is clogging landfills and choking the seas.

If we could imagine a world where we were able to clean up our oceans, reduce our landfill and do something positive with the plastic pollution currently choking our world? The reality is that no one denies that plastic has been an incredible invention for mankind.

Our greedy dependence on plastic has led us to a manmade environmental crisis that is still growing. Our oceans and beaches are increasingly awash with waste plastic, while plastic dumping and landfill is at an all-time high.

We are at crisis point for modern businesses that still want to sell products but increasingly realise that they are also a part of the solution; they need to embrace solutions for all parts of their supply chain.

Mota Mota is a senior account manager at Edelman South Africa

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